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Global Management Forum 2018

Wary of digital disruption? KPMG executive advises partnering up

'Don't try to win the race alone,' says tech chief Christian Rast

Christian Rast, KPMG's global head of technology and knowledge, offers advice for executives grappling with digital change at the Nikkei Global Management Forum on Nov. 7.

TOKYO -- Corporate executives should seek alliances to rise to the challenge of digital disruption and provide more value to their customers, a key KPMG International executive advised on Wednesday.

Speaking at the 20th Nikkei Global Management Forum in Tokyo, Christian Rast, global head of technology and knowledge at the auditing firm, cited a study that revealed only about a third of executives trust their organization's technology and analytical capabilities, even as they recognize the benefits of adopting them.

The low number is alarming, Rast said, considering the way new technologies are reshaping industries -- on top of economic and demographic risk factors. No sector is free from the threat of disruption, he stressed. "It started with media and travel industries, and now we are talking about the financial services, consumer and automotive industries."

The digital transformation of business is not a question of "if" but "when," Rast warned. Whether it is Google venturing into self-driving vehicles or German e-payment company Wirecard replacing Commerzbank as one of the top 30 companies in the Dax stock index, more change is coming.

Rast suggested one way to deal with the trust deficit, which deters executives from fully stepping into the digital domain, is to work with others. "Don't try to win the race alone," the German executive said.

Using KPMG as an example, Rast said the professional services provider recognized it would not be spared from disruption and began working with about 5,000 startups worldwide to create solutions for clients.

Rast advised any fence sitters to consider the value digital change can deliver to their customers. Companies, he said, should also tap their own pools of young talent, making these employees "evangelists" for technology.

"It is important to really see digital transformation as something not only about technology but how it really impacts the whole company," Rast said. "It is driving the culture of change."

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