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Netpoleon focuses on people for a digital edge

'We are in a race to build human capital, and whoever can better execute that will seize the opportunity in the market.' - Netpoleon CEO Francis Goh

BRINGING cutting-edge network security solutions to clients is what Netpoleon Group of Companies is all about. Yet despite specialising in this tech-heavy field, the firm puts an emphasis on the human touch. "We say that we are in the cyber security business. But in fact, I believe we are in the people business," says Netpoleon Chief Executive Officer Francis Goh. The group's vision of becoming a regional leader in its field, after all, is to be achieved through creating "winning partnerships with both our employees and customers".

Netpoleon began in July 2000 as a value-added system integrator, helping clients build computing systems by bringing together a range of products and solutions.

In 2006, the firm reinvented itself as a value-added distributor, to better position itself for future growth. It sources and distributes the best and most reliable technologies for clients' needs, while providing customer support and technical expertise.

Today, Netpoleon's core business is the distribution of network security solutions - along with value- added services such as pre-sales solution architecting, post-sales support and maintenance, as well as professional advisory and delivery services. Beyond security, it also offers network optimisation, network monitoring, and data centre solutions.

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The cyber security business is "red-hot" today, and Netpoleon is expecting double-digit growth in the year ahead, says Mr Goh.

But with the industry expanding at such a breakneck pace, the supply of talent might not have caught up yet."Lack of skilled IT personnel in the industry brings huge challenges," explains Mr Goh.

"We are in a race to build human capital, and whoever can better execute that will seize the opportunity in the market."

Netpoleon therefore aims to be an Employer of Choice. "Welfare and salary compensation aside, we believe that our employees are happier if they are well equipped with relevant skillsets," he says. "Thus, we retain them through continuous training and mentorship."

The firm also creates career paths for employees, incentivising them with the clear prospect of career progression - especially for the technical professionals.

Recently, Netpoleon was also awarded a grant by Enterprise Singapore to undertake a human resource project, which will further help the firm to attract, develop and retain talent.

Over the years, the firm has refined its business approaches to keep pace with the swiftly changing market. But its most important innovation, says Mr Goh, is its management philosophy: that an employee can be trained and upskilled, as long as the opportunity is given.

"Hence, besides just looking out for experienced personnel, we also hire talented but not so experienced young employees, or experienced individuals who want to switch careers into the IT industry, to start their career with us.

"The group believes that while we are in the IT space, we are actually in talent management," he sums up.

The firm's focus on talent is undeniable, with Mr Goh making sure to highlight the contributions of key individuals in the Netpoleon team.

Netpoleon's first overseas expansion was in 2002, when the group ventured into the Philippines. In 2011, it also acquired a business in Malaysia. But its internationalisation journey really picked up steam in 2013, with the joining of Max Foo, the firm's current Chief Operating Officer.

Mr Foo came onboard to set up operations in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. He also expanded the Malaysia business rapidly.

With Netpoleon's latest overseas office in Myanmar, opened in 2017, the group now operates in seven countries, with eight offices and over 280 staff, of which about 80 are in Singapore.

Besides expanding its external reach, Netpoleon has also paid close attention to its internal processes and efficiency.

In 2014, the firm welcomed Ms Lam Mee Ling onboard as Chief Financial Officer, to better manage the firm's finances and general back-office operations. "While Max managed to grow the business, Mee Ling has been credited with excellent financial management, and put in place relevant business processes to strengthen Netpoleon as a whole," says Mr Goh.

As a group, Netpoleon now sees US$80 million in annual revenue. The majority of its business comes from governments, the telecommunications sector, and the financial services industry.

"These are organisations which typically have more complex IT or cyber security needs, which play into our strength in technical services," says Mr Goh.

The firm is involved in various "mission-critical projects" across South-east Asia, he adds - though of course he is unable to disclose details.

Netpoleon has not been alone in its growth journey. Mr Goh credits HSBC Bank with being a good banker to the firm, supporting its treasury and business requirements across its many markets since 2014.

Recently, HSBC set up a regional cash management system for the Netpoleon headquarters in Singapore, helping it better support the group's businesses in the region.

Netpoleon's most major tie-up happened in 2017, when it entered a strategic partnership with the Japan-headquartered Macnica Networks Corporation.

Macnica Networks Corporation, a leading supplier of network equipment and security solutions, is a subsidiary of Tokyo-listed Macnica Fuji Electronics Holdings, which has a revenue of about US$5 billion.

"With this partnership, Netpoleon is poised to grow much faster," says Mr Goh, pointing to its greater financial strength and knowledge transfer from Macnica.

Partners like Macnica are not the only ones who have recognised Netpoleon's achievements and potential.

In 2016, Netpoleon received a special achievement award in cyber security during the annual Singapore SME 500 Awards.

In 2017, it received the Dun & Bradstreet Business Eminence Award, as well as the Enterprise 50 Award from KPMG and The Business Times.

Netpoleon is not resting on its laurels, and instead continues to look for opportunities to expand. Says Mr Goh: "Business today is about scale."

The firm's priority is to continue investing in the countries where it is currently operating, and grow the business there.

Nonetheless, Mr Goh sees a longer-term need for Netpoleon to go beyond South-east Asia and into the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition to new geographical territories, Netpoleon is also looking at expanding into promising business areas.

"While our key focus is on cyber security, we are actively looking at new growth areas such as cloud, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, etc, which our strategic partner Macnica has expertise in," says Mr Goh.

Furthermore, the firm's growth strategy is not limited to organic growth, he adds. "In contrast, we are actively looking at inorganic growth to rapidly scale our business."

After all, there is no room for complacency in the field of cyber security - nor in the world of business, as Netpoleon's forward-looking approach demonstrates.