Published on 19 Jul 2023

Spearheading greater financial inclusion in Indonesia’s digital era

Melisa Hendrawati, the Chief Financial Officer of an Indonesian bank focused on digital banking, shares why she champions financial inclusion ahead of the inaugural NTU Alumni Regional Conference on 26 August 2023.

By Sadia Roohi

Melisa Hendrawati (NBS/2007 & 2011) wears many hats. The Nanyang Business School alumna is not only the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Superbank but is also a member of the boards of Global Association of Risk Professional (Indonesia Chapter) and Chartered Financial Analyst Society in Indonesia. She is also active in the NTU Alumni Association of Indonesia, serving over 1,400 alumni in the capacity of Vice President. 

Melisa Hendrawati, Chief Financial Officer of Superbank in Indonesia, completed both her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at NTU’s Nanyang Business School.

Having built a successful career in the financial services sector, she will be sharing her observations of Indonesia’s digital economy and e-commerce landscape at the upcoming NTU Alumni Regional Conference in Jakarta on 26 August 2023 as a panel speaker. 

Apart from being the largest economy in Southeast Asia, Indonesia’s digital economy, which includes e-commerce, online travel, edutech and digital payments, is also the largest in the region. In 2022, the country recorded US$77 billion in gross merchandise value, and this figure is projected to double to US$130 billion by 2025, according to a report titled “e-Conomy SEA” issued by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company. 

“Indonesia can be considered as one of the most exciting digital banking markets in Southeast Asia. As our digital economy continues to thrive, fuelled by technological advancements and changing consumer behaviours, it presents an exciting landscape for businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals to harness the transformative power of the digital age,” said Melisa. 

She highlights the potential of the digital banking sector in Indonesia, especially given the country's tech-savvy population and high smartphone penetration. "However, almost 80% of the Indonesian population remains unbanked or underbanked," she points out. 

Recognising the need for greater financial inclusion, Melisa emphasises the role of digital banks in bridging gaps in financial access. “The loan-to-GDP ratio in Indonesia is only around 35%, compared to more than 190% in Singapore. Helping people to access financing is a real pain point that Superbank is trying to solve by leveraging our ecosystem,” she said.

Superbank is backed by Emtek Group, Grab and Singtel, and is undergoing a digital transformation to utilise technology and data insights to offer more digital banking services and solutions to the underbanked group of micro businesses and retail customers.  

Relishing her Singapore-Indonesia connections

Melisa’s deep connection with Singapore, where she completed two degrees and built her career for 10 years before returning to Indonesia in 2014, holds a special place in her heart. 

“Singapore, being a melting pot of great talent, has significantly shaped my adaptability and willingness to embrace change,” she said. 

Reflecting on her time at NTU, Melisa describes her Convocation as a turning point, when she realised that her journey has just begun. She made a personal commitment to pursue postgraduate studies, ideally at NTU. 

Her dream came true when she later returned to NTU to pursue the Nanyang MBA programme and was awarded the Dean's List upon her completion in 2010. She finds that her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at NTU have played a pivotal role in shaping her character, fostering resilience, and instilling adaptability.

Alumni in Indonesia gather for the NTU Alumni Association (Indonesia) Annual General Meeting on 16 March 2023. 

“Studying at NTU provided me with invaluable opportunities," said Melisa. "The diversity in cohort mates and best-in-class curriculum allowed me to engage in discussions with both lecturers and classmates, honing my ability to solve issues with innovative solutions.”

When asked about her vision in her current role as a CFO, Melisa said, “I have always wanted to make a difference to people's lives. Fittingly, my role is about expanding financial services to reach the underserved community.”

She has also faced challenges, such as establishing robust systems and processes from scratch as well as recruiting the right people to propel the bank's growth. 

Melisa believes that challenges always bring greater opportunities. She said, “People are the greatest asset of every company. No challenge is insurmountable if we have a solid and motivated team.” 

She draws inspiration from Simon Sinek, a British-born American author and inspirational speaker, to lead with heart and empathy and to lead by example. 

The value of networking

Being involved in various co-curricular activities during her university days has helped Melisa develop her leadership and soft skills. She finds that networking with fellow NTU alumni has a positive impact on her personal and professional life. Anytime she needs to brainstorm ideas and exchange insights, she will turn to the alumni network. Furthermore, the friendship she has forged amongst NTU alumni is one that will last a lifetime, providing a valuable support system. 

 Melisa (2nd from right) is the Vice President of NTU Alumni Association (AA) (Indonesia). She is seen here with AA President Johnny Widodo (centre) and other members of the management committee. 

She said, “An alumni association is a great platform for all alumni to share their insights with others and to network and grow together.”

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, NTU’s alumni association in Indonesia had successfully organised a series of webinars, and it plans to host more in-person events, networking sessions and gatherings.

Melisa looks forward to meeting fellow alumni and industry players to discuss the opportunities and challenges in Indonesia's digital economy during a panel session at the NTU Alumni Regional conference, where she will also shed light on building a strong corporate culture by combining innovation and a digital mindset.

Sign up for the NTU Alumni Regional Conference 2023 which incorporates the NTU Singapore – Indonesia Dialogue on Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. There will also be an NTU Singapore Graduate Programme Recruitment Roadshow happening from 25 to 26 August 2023. Register online

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