PwC-YCM Trust Debate

PwC Malaysia collaborated with Young Corporate Malaysians (YCM) to organise a trust debate among industry leaders and young professionals.

Organised in conjunction with PwC’s Building Trust Awards, this debate was one of our initiatives to engage the next generation of leaders in Malaysia on the topic of trust in business.

The audience comprised young professionals from the corporate sector and representatives from social enterprises and non-profit organisations.

What inspired the debate

  • PwC recognised the efforts of Malaysian companies in building trust in our inaugural Building Trust Awards in November 2015.
  • Trust-building is relevant to businesses of all sizes, but is it a level playing field?  Or do big businesses have an advantage over smaller businesses in building trust among their stakeholders?
  • This was the question that most confounded the participants of PwC’s recent study‘Trust in business: Delivering authentic value’. Opinions were divided among our poll respondents.
  • We decided to put two well-known business leaders and two up-and-coming young professionals in the spotlight, getting them to present their views on both sides of the debate. 

The audience as the jury

In a refreshing twist to the traditional debate concept, the audience delivered the verdict through a two-step voting process, loosely styled on the Intelligence Squared debate format.

The strength of the speakers’ arguments were the main determinant of the winner, emphasising that it’s not how many votes you get, but how many you sway to your side.

Using a live conference platform, the audience posed questions to the speakers, challenging their views and giving them food for thought.

Speakers

PwC Malaysia Managing Partner Sridharan Nair, in his opening speech likened the debate and the audience voting process to how companies in the business world need to win the trust of their consumers. Even with the best laid plans in place, businesses need to be reactive in defending their company and what it stands for, he emphasised.

“In an era where a company can burn trust almost instantaneously over a single mistweet, trial by social media, referred to by some quarters as the new form of people’s court, is certainly keeping businesses on their toes.”

PwC Malaysia Managing Partner Sridharan Nair

Moderator Stephanie Caunter (PwC Malaysia’s Marketing & Communications Lead) started the first poll, setting the tone for the debate.

The majority of the audience were ‘for’ the motion at the start of the debate. 79.6% felt that “big” businesses had it easier than small businesses when it comes to building trust, versus 20.4% who felt otherwise.

The debate began with strong opening statements by Sarah and Ashwin, representing their respective teams.

As the debate progressed, the questions posed by the audience got more provocative. They queried the speakers on trust and competing in a borderless marketplace, removal of barriers with the increasing prominence of digital platforms, managing the interests of multiple stakeholders, and the impact of the sharing economy on building trust.

The debate

Affirmative team

  • Afzal Abdul Rahim (Director and Chief Executive Officer, TIME dotCom Berhad)
  • Sarah Asha’ari (Convenor, Young Corporate Malaysians)

Opposing team

  • Ashwin Jeyapalasingam (Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, CatchThatBus.com)
  • Lee Boon Siew, Tax Consultant, PwC Malaysia

Affirmative team

  • Afzal Abdul Rahim (Director and Chief Executive Officer, TIME dotCom Berhad)
  • Sarah Asha’ari (Convenor, Young Corporate Malaysians)

Opposing team

  • Ashwin Jeyapalasingam (Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, CatchThatBus.com)
  • Lee Boon Siew, Tax Consultant, PwC Malaysia

Affirmative team

  • Afzal Abdul Rahim (Director and Chief Executive Officer, TIME dotCom Berhad)
  • Sarah Asha’ari (Convenor, Young Corporate Malaysians)

Opposing team

  • Ashwin Jeyapalasingam (Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, CatchThatBus.com)
  • Lee Boon Siew, Tax Consultant, PwC Malaysia

Affirmative team

  • Afzal Abdul Rahim (Director and Chief Executive Officer, TIME dotCom Berhad)
  • Sarah Asha’ari (Convenor, Young Corporate Malaysians)

Opposing team

  • Ashwin Jeyapalasingam (Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, CatchThatBus.com)
  • Lee Boon Siew, Tax Consultant, PwC Malaysia

Affirmative team

  • Afzal Abdul Rahim (Director and Chief Executive Officer, TIME dotCom Berhad)
  • Sarah Asha’ari (Convenor, Young Corporate Malaysians)

Opposing team

  • Ashwin Jeyapalasingam (Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, CatchThatBus.com)
  • Lee Boon Siew, Tax Consultant, PwC Malaysia

Affirmative team

  • Sarah Asha’ari (Convenor, Young Corporate Malaysians)
  • Afzal Abdul Rahim (Director and Chief Executive Officer, TIME dotCom Berhad)

For the motion:

Sarah emphasised that small businesses are not as regulated as “big” businesses. The abolishment of annual general meetings (AGMs) for private companies set out in the Companies Bill 2015 will certainly be felt by smaller businesses. AGMs function as a key communications platform to promote transparency. With the removal of this requirement, smaller businesses will need to work harder than bigger companies to build trust among their stakeholders. 

For the motion:

For Afzal, size does matter in building trust. There is a certain trust deficit smaller companies need to overcome in winning the support of their stakeholders, something he identifies with as a relatively new and hence smaller player in the broadband industry. While he acknowledged that it may be easy for a “big” business to lose trust, by virtue of their visibility in the marketplace, he also felt that they can fall back on their reputation to regain that trust easily. 

Opposing team

  • Ashwin Jeyapalasingam (Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, CatchThatBus.com)
  • Lee Boon Siew, Tax Consultant, PwC Malaysia

Against the motion:

Framing the concept of trust in terms of PwC’s Trustworthy Organisation Model, Ashwin spoke about a company’s competence, the experience it provides and its values – the things people look for in considering whether they trust the company. He argued that smaller businesses are much better equipped to build trust compared to their bigger counterparts, simply because the former provides more niche experiences to individuals.  

Against the motion:

Boon Siew argued that the number of stakeholders a “big” business has to deal with makes it harder for them to build trust. When they delegate authority, to a certain extent, they lose control over how they manage the company, and by extension, the actions of their employees. Criminal breach of trust is one of the ugly downsides to this. In addition, their visibility puts them under greater scrutiny especially on social media. 

The results

It was indeed a very insightful topic, leaving the audience with some points to ponder. The arguments proved that trust is relevant for businesses of all sizes. And because trust is so dynamic, there is certainly no one-size fits-all approach to building trust. 

The opposing team wins

After a robust discussion and a good measure of witty comments and observations in between, Stephanie started the second poll, reminding the audience to vote carefully. 

The verdict? Even though 67% of the audience agreed that it is easier for “big” businesses to build trust than small businesses, the opposing team managed to swing 3.8% votes to their side, thanks to the strength of their arguments. 

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