Meet James Lester, International Head of Finance and Singapore CMD at Telstra Enterprise

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Tell us about your business

Telstra is one of the world’s leading telecommunications and technology companies. We believe the more connected people are, the more opportunities they have. That’s why we bring innovative technology, capability and talent from around the world to help businesses create connected futures. Today, we have approximately 1,600 employees based in more than 20 countries outside of Australia, providing services to thousands of customers. We offer those customers the largest and most diverse subsea network system in Asia, established over several decades and delivering up to one-third of Asian IP traffic. These services are underpinned by our extensive cable network, with licences in Asia, Europe and the Americas and access to more than 2,000 Points of Presence (PoPs) in more than 200 countries and territories.

Our heritage is proudly Australian but we have been helping international businesses connect for more than 70 years. We operate in every major market, with an unparalleled network and presence in Australia and Asia Pacific. Our commitment to service excellence and in-country support enables you to seize new opportunities around the world.

What’s your role all about? 

I have a dual role.  As International Head of Finance my role is both to understand the drivers of our current performance and plan for how these will impact our financial performance into the future.  This means a very close relationship with all parts of the business to understand customer demands and industry trends to ensure that we can meet our annual targets. As Country Managing Director (CMD) I also have a responsibility to our customers and our people at Telstra. After the advent of the global pandemic, this role is particularly important in ensuring clarity of messages and wellbeing of our people.

What’s the hot topic in your sector right now? 

In a world affected by the pandemic, one thing that has stood out is how rapidly we are embracing change on the technology front. We are seeing accelerated rates of digitalisation and abundant chatter around topics like digital transformation and the future of work. According to our research with GlobalData, 93% of businesses state they have changed their IT priorities either incrementally, significantly, or dramatically. Top priorities include safeguarding employee health, improving ICT and security resilience, and ramping up remote working.

Truly, what we are seeing is humankind’s incredible resilience and propensity to push forward in the face of unprecedented challenges. Spurred by this overarching trend, we are also seeing various technologies entering the spotlight – the growing relevance of cloud, rising emphasis on cybersecurity, and new applications of emerging technologies like AI and IoT are among these. At Telstra, we’re always keeping in tune with wider technology trends like these. After all, new innovation keeps with our goal of constantly connecting and creating opportunities for people in Australia and around the world.

Why are you a member of AustCham in Singapore? 

Telstra is a quintessential Australian brand and we have a steadfast relationship with Austcham in Asia, and an active member here in Singapore.  We value the social and networking aspects of the relationship, as well as the information and insights shared by the forum, that provide a greater understanding of Australia’s opportunity and impact in the region.  We also value the opportunity to give back to the broader Australian business community and Austcham is a great channel for us to contribute to Australian businesses.

Where are your go-to places in Singapore for great food and coffee? 

My family can always be found at some point over the weekend at Grace’s on River Valley Road, but we also enjoy Common Man and Little Farms.  From an eating point of view our son loves Japanese, so Noka is a lovely venue.

Where in the world would you travel to right now if COVID wasn’t an issue? 

I would have to choose 3 places.  The UK as that is where the majority of our family is, Japan as the family loves all parts of Japan and finally Peru as I have never been and love to go to new places and explore.


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