CTOs in Southeast Asia: Salary expectations & job description

Over recent years, technology has become the backbone of most organisations, driving the need for organisations to hire a CTO

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The Chief Technology (or Technical) Officer is the C-suite executive in charge of overseeing the technology needs of a company. While the ‘T’ in the CTO might change depending on the organisation you work for, the responsibilities of a CTO remain largely the same across the board; managing the technology and staff working in the IT, telecoms and in some situations engineering departments.

Organisations of all sizes rely on the smooth delivery of technology projects to drive long-term business success. However, not everything always goes according to plan and companies can find themselves faced with several challenges that force them to rebuild, restore and rescue projects without the help of delivery partners. This is where the role of the CTO comes in.

As the role has grown in popularity, so has the scope of responsibility that comes with it.

It’s not uncommon for the CTO to be the driving force behind company-wide digital transformation efforts, as they are often best placed to evaluate the long- and short-term benefits of technological investments.

They should also be able to foster an environment where technical employees like developers are inspired to work towards ambitious and forward-thinking technological projects.

“One of my main roles as CTO is to make sure that our culture of ‘engineering excellence’ is maintained throughout the organisation,” Mark Porter, CTO of Transport, Mobility and Core Technologies at hail-riding startup Grab recently told CIO ASEAN.

“One of the key tenets of that is ensuring the team improves as it grows. This means that the team needs to embrace a ‘learn it all’ mentality instead of a ‘know it all’ mindset.”

CTO salary in Southeast Asia

The salary of a CTO varies from country to country across the ASEAN region and can change depending on industry, company size and years of experience. Below is a guide to the average per annum earnings of CTOs in seven countries where data was available.

  • Indonesia: 414 million – 522 million IDR (US$29,400 – 37,100)
  • Vietnam: 584 million – 738 million VND (US$25,000 – 31,700)
  • Singapore: 108,000 – 180,000 SGD (US$78,200 – 130,400)
  • Thailand: 484,631 – 871,056 THB (US$14,869 – 26,725)
  • Malaysia: 94,204 –414,142 MYR (US$22,648 – 99,566)
  • Philippines: 674,049 – 6,787,060 PHP (US$12,497 – 125,839)
  • Cambodia: 51 million – 215 million KHR (US$12,440 – 52,861) [Figures relate to C-Level Executive job title]

What’s the difference between a CTO and a CIO?

From an outside perspective, the role of the CTO and CIO might appear to overlap and to some extent, this is true. Traditionally, individuals employed in these roles often hail from a technical background.

However, as we have already explored, with the responsibilities of the CIO moving away from being purely technical, there has been an increase of CIOs joining companies form less-traditional backgrounds. This isn’t the case for the CTO, who often start out their professional lives as developers or something similarly technical.

Furthermore, while the CIO traditionally works closely with the c-suite executive team, the CTO is more closely aligned with IT teams, helping to develop technology that can be delivered to the company's clients and help differentiate the business from its competitors.

In organisations that have both a CIO and a CTO on the C-suite team, the CTO would be tasked with discovering emerging technologies that can then be used to innovate the company at the technical level. The CIO would be responsible for introducing these new technologies into the organisation and overseeing with the operational and organisational challenges that stem from that.

What skills do you need to be a successful CTO?

In Southeast Asia, which boasts a growing millennial and entrepreneurial populations, one of the most important skills for a CTO to have is a firm grasp of emerging technologies.

When your customers are young and technically proficient, you need to ensure you invest in enterprise-grade technology that can keep pace with their ever-changing demands and standards.

Unless you understand the demographic you’re serving, and the technology they’re using, you can’t properly cater to their needs.

More broadly, it goes without saying CTOs are expected to be highly technical, bringing a level of expertise and understanding that would otherwise be missing from an organisation. It’s also important for a CTO to possess strong leadership skills as they will need to oversee the launch of new technology projects and ensure they make it to fruition.

Increasingly, today’s CTOs are being given some customer-facing responsibilities, meaning that good communication skills are also necessary to succeed in the role.

"[...] Our goal is to keep as relevant with our customers, to make sure we understand our customers, not just the products they want but what they want to do, and therefore how we can support their lifestyle," said Colin Dinn, Senior Executive Vice President and CTO at Siam Commercial Bank, during the Oracle OpenWorld Asia in March.

Ultimately, the best CTO is one who possesses a comprehensive understanding of the changing technological landscape and can make the right technology investments based on both the current and future needs of the company they work for.

Additional reporting by Cristina Lago.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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