Global CFO Excellence 2019 awardee redefines role of the modern CFO

Published August 7, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Ray Berja, CFO at Mynt
Often pigeonholed as the company bean counters, Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) have been traditionally seen as a walking bundle of numbers who care about nothing but the bottom line.
And yet a CFO from—of all places—a fintech company running the Philippines’ leading mobile wallet has set out to disprove this prevailing stereotype, emphasizing instead the need for a CFO to genuinely understand a business and inspire people to excel and work together.
Ray Berja, CFO at Mynt (Globe Fintech Innovations Inc.) who was named Best Fintech CFO of the Year at the Global CFO Excellence Awards 2019, said gone were the days of a traditional CFO.
“The CFO today is a business partner, an enabler, a strategist and a provider of value in the organization,” Berja said. “A CFO has to be inspiring and must be able to motivate the organization, especially the finance team. He or she has to be more than a bean counter.”
Berja, who had set out to be a soldier when he was young, found he enjoyed the strategy game more in the corporate world—something that has worked in his favor the past fifteen years.
“You have to be a strategist and translate the financial targets to a commercial strategic direction. A CFO has to be able to work well with his commercial counterpart, to enable the commercial and business groups to deliver their targets,” the finance executive said.
 Though only 39 years old, Berja’s resume includes stints in the biggest names in Philippine business: working with external audit firms, multinational companies, media empire ABS-CBN, fastfood giant Jollibee, and telecoms pioneer PLDT Global.
Growing up in Piat, Cagayan Valley, the young Berja—like many young men in the province––wanted to be a soldier, a general even. After graduating from the science high school of the University of St. Louis of Tuguegarao, he was accepted to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City but decided that military life was not for him. He believed that serving the country was not limited to wearing a uniform—there are many ways to take part in nation-building.
With the meager amount he saved as a PMA cadet, plus the help of friends, classmates and PMAers, Berja went to Manila, unsure about his future but confident that armed with his faith and work ethic, he would succeed.
“I always believed that no matter how hard you work, without God’s blessing, your work will be wasted. I still believe that all things work together for good for those who love God, and by God’s grace in Christ Jesus, one’s future will always be brighter and better than anyone’s expectations— even your own,” says Berja, who, upon arriving in Manila, worked in various capacities for the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Recognizing his potential, the PNP gave him a regular position allowing him to study accountancy at nights and on Saturdays at the Philippine School of Business Administration (PSBA) in Quezon City, where he got an academic scholarship sponsored by the college dean.
Despite being a working student, Berja regularly topped PSBA’s accountancy exams and was considered one of the school’s best bets to top the board exam for Certified Public Accountants. He graduated from PSBA as a consistent dean’s lister and was chosen as one of the Most Outstanding Accounting Students of the Philippines, a recognition given by the Association of Certified Public Accountants in Commerce and Industry.
“I was so confident that I would be a board topnotcher,” Berja said. “But imagine, when the scores came out… I barely passed.”
Rather than get discouraged, Berja used this disappointment to motivate himself to work as a topnotch CPA: “My mindset has always been to be the best in my profession and to bring value in the finance profession.”
After becoming a Certified Public Accountant, he turned down an offer to continue working in the PNP and decided to join the private sector.
Berja distinguished himself in the companies he joined, crediting his early years working in his mother’s food stall at the public market and later, his time in the PMA, for integrity at work and for his ability to adjust in any environment and address the different challenges in the workplace.

”It’s more of the discipline. Part of my personality is to adapt very quickly. I’m very agile. You put me in a new place, I put my heart into it to excel; I can quickly blend in and adjust,” he said. 

Along the way, Berja continued learning. He obtained a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the Ateneo de Manila University Graduate School of Business and Regis University in the United States, as well as a Diploma in Financial Technology from Said Business School-University of Oxford.
He also became a Certified Management Accountant and a Certified Financial Consultant with the Institute of Certified Management Accountant of Australia and the Institute of Certified Financial Consultants of Canada.
Berja believes his academic training complemented by 15 years of real-world experience in finance is what allowed a seasoned CFO such as himself to be effective, whether in a mature company PLDT Global, or a startup like Mynt.
“One thing is common down the line. CFOs should understand the entire business from end to end and inspire and empower people around them. They should embed themselves in the business in order to maximize shareholder value,” Berja said.
This is what Berja will bring to Air Asia Philippines as the airline’s new CFO aiming, as he always does, to understand, to excel, to enable and to inspire others to soar to new heights.