Suwandi Wiratno: Together Everyone Achieves More

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Today’s children may not feel any pride in being scouts. You can even say that the scout movement as an extracurricular activity is not very popular in schools, particularly in major cities in Indonesia. After school, students would prefer to take part in other extracurricular activities or play a game on play station or something similar.

“This is really regrettable! I feel sad at this situation,” said Suwandi Wiratno, the CEO of WOM Finance. “Sophisticated technology-based games are more popular than scout activities.”  

In fact, said Suwandi, who still remembers scout codes using two sticks, many scout activities are very useful. “As a boy scout, you are trained to work in groups and systematically, something hardly found among today’s students,” he noted.  

Suwandi, however, does not consider this condition completely wrong. The reason is that today’s business tends to be individualistic in nature, he said. “Just imagine, now you can trade stock without having to be present at the stock exchange,” he said.

“Everything can be conducted through the computer and the telephone at home or in your office. In the next era, perhaps things will be more sophisticated and people will be even more individualistic.”  

Still, Suwandi still hopes that some day the scout movement will enjoy a revival. “Anyhow, the scout movement is one of the best venues for children and youngsters to learn leadership skills,” he said. T

alking about leadership, Suwandi praises the system applied at WOM Finance, where he was recently appointed CEO. “Perhaps no other multi-finance company has a human resources development department that carries out a seven month training program for prospective leaders,” he said.  

According to Suwandi, this program is important for the growth of the company and the sustainability of the leadership system. “So, at WOM Finance there are always reliable, prospective leaders that are ready for their position when the time comes for them to assume the position of their superior,” said Suwandi, who was born on Nov. 19, 1963.  

He feels lucky to be part of an organization such as WOM Finance, which cares deeply about the development of its employees and leaders. At WOM Finance, Suwandi faces a major challenge. As a subsidiary of BII, WOM Finance must comply with a new BI regulation on financial reports that resulted in the operational profit of the company showing a steep drop in the first semester of 2007.

In fact, he said, “This is not actually the case. If this regulation is complied with, there will be no further limit to BII’s future additional investment in WOM Finance because the risk management has been consolidated.”  

What’s obvious, Suwandi stressed, is that under such circumstances, he is optimistic he can improve WOM Finance. “Especially because Pak Benny, as the previous CEO, established a strong foundation so that I can simply continue with what he started.”  

Still, to lead WOM Finance was not his dream. Neither was his previous position as president director of BII Finance. “What I believed in when I started working at the age of 25 in 1988 was that some day I would lead a company,” said Suwandi, who wanted to be a policeman when he was young.   He had set targets in his life. “When I first joined PricewaterhouseCoopers, my goal was to be a manager within five years. I met this goal in just three years,” he said, reminiscing.  

When he was a manager, he set another goal, namely to be a director in the next six to seven years. However, he went on, owing to a crisis, it took him slightly longer to gain this position. “When I was 38 or 39 I was made a director at Pricewaterhouse.”  

The following targets have also been achieved so that he is one of the leaders of one of Indonesia’s largest banks, BII. Still, Suwandi is not smug about his success. Instead, he has a dream that his employees will one day own shares in the company. “When a company is big, it is no longer the shareholders that pay the employees but the employees themselves,” he said. So, he went on, the amount of an employee’s salary depends on the profit that the employees together produce. This is in line with his philosophy of management: transparent and in a family-like spirit.

“So the output is the result of a joint agreement with the employees as the manifestation of teamwork. I can illustrate this in one sentence: Together everyone achieves more!”  

Suwandi said he does not adhere to a particular management concept or theory from an expert. The concept of transparency and having a family-like spirit, which he has been applying all these years, is quite effective. Talking about his role model, he refers to his eldest brother, who is 18 years older than him. “Imagine at that time he had to earn a living to feed his own family and also finance the schooling of his four younger brothers,” said Suwandi, who is an MBA degree holder from Golden Gate University, the U.S.  

That’s why I will never forget what he and his wife did for us. “The sacrifice of his wife was much bigger because the income of the family was set aside to finance our studies in the United States. It is also from him, an entrepreneur, that I learned a lot about corporate management,” he said. Suwandi, the second of five siblings, say he owes his position to the support of his brother. Still, despite all his success, Suwandi has a modest wish for old age. “I just want to have a small business and play golf.”  

When you are old, Suwandi said, you should remain active. “If you play golf, you can still have fun on the golf course although you won’t be as strong as you were when you were younger. In this way, he added, you can keep your brain active and you will be healthy and sound until your dying day. (Arif T. Syam)  

The Jakarta Post, 2008

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