Xu Chong, CFO & Executive Director of Babytree: Focusing on M&C and Expanding Horizons for More Opportunities

Joining the maternity and child (M&C)-focused Babytree Group (1761.HK) was the right thing to do for Xu Chong, CFO and Executive Director of the company.

Xu Chong, CFO and Executive Director of Babytree Group

“I tried to find the right business from an investor perspective. And Babytree, a top-ranking company in the 600 billion dollar M&C industry with an unrivalled reputation and high user traffic, is exactly what I’ve been looking for,” said Mr. Xu in an interview with a reporter from takungpao.com.

In fact, as one of the largest and most active M&C-focused community platforms in China, Babytree has achieved impressive results in the past year in content upgradation and product innovation through relentless efforts. Data show that as of 30 June 2020, the monthly active users (MAUs) of Babytree reached 103 million, among which the MAUs of the Babytree Parenting mobile app amounted to 20.4 million, up 7.9% from the end of 2019, with the retention rate (the percentage of active users on the app in a specific month that remained active users in the next month) increasing to 65.2%. Thanks to refinements and upgrades in products, services and experience, Babytree remained a user traffic leader in the industry during the first half of the year and has ushered in a new stage of “value creation-driven growth”.

In terms of products, the company continued to launch innovative products to boost sales, in addition to constantly building the content-, tools- and community-focused competitiveness of its products. Centering around “M&C User Lifestyle Showcase”, a string of upgrades were rolled out for the Babytree Parenting app, the flagship product of the company. Meanwhile, Babytree is set to see the second curve of growth through building content for various scenarios and cultivating its IP portfolio. For example, the Douyin account, “Babytree Experts”, has attracted nearly 700,000 subscribers, with over 6,500,000 views for one of the videos released.

“As the CFO, it is my duty to protect cash flow and keep the company going at this difficult time.”

Looking back at the COVID-19 pandemic early this year, which is surely a Black Swan event for Babytree Group and the M&C market, Xu Chong said that in spite of the impacts of the pandemic, M&C demand remains strong and the recession-resistant nature of the industry will serve as the underpinning for its market size and investment value. Meanwhile, the M&C industry is faced with the new challenge of advancing digitalization.

“As the CFO, my definition of safety is that the company can survive at least two of such crisis as the pandemic.
And that’s how I design our asset structure. By doing so, we will have sufficient cash flow to keep the company going in an unexpected crisis like the pandemic. Meanwhile, be friends with time and note that chance favours the prepared mind. We must be able to anticipate what’s ahead, a peak or a trough or a crisis. When a crisis occurs, I have to do what needs to be done as a CFO, including cost actions or urging the business team to make innovative breakthroughs. More importantly, have forward-looking strategies,” said Xu Chong. He also added that as a top-ranking M&C-focused online platform that has been providing diverse services including knowledge, tools and shopping for Chinese families, Babytree has advantageous accumulations of data and insights to help offer effective, differentiated products and services during the pandemic and relieve consumer anxiety in respect of supply. By continuing to provide solutions, create value for and offer companionship to users, the company is poised to grow sustainably.

“Only a company with a vision and blueprint to draw future lifestyles for users and investors can be trusted with higher value expectations.”

As the CFO of a Mainland China company listed in Hong Kong, Mr. Xu shared with takungpao.com his insights about the Hong Kong capital market and what it takes to be a good listed company. According to him, reforms of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong’s systems have resulted in more inclusiveness and openness and have removed barriers to new economy or already overseas-listed companies that are looking to go public in the Hong Kong market. Now these companies can get access to diversified financing from home and abroad, while investors have more choices as to where to put their money. It is a win-win for everyone involved. In 2020, despite new uncertainties to the capital market brought by Black Swan events such as the pandemic, an increasing number of already overseas-listed and new economy companies became listed in Hong Kong. With the thriving Chinese economy, more budding industries and companies in the country start to be noticed by global investors. In the future, the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, a shining star in the global capital market, is expected to gather more quality assets to create higher value for investors.

As to what it takes to be a good listed company, Mr. Xu mentioned three elements, namely a promising industry outlook, sound corporate fundamentals, and excellent corporate governance. Firstly, the company must be in an industry with great potentials, fast growth and strong resistance to recessions. Secondly, the company must do good in position in the industry, quality of products and services, reputation among consumers, profit model, core values, competition, financial indicators and so on. Finally, excellent corporate governance delivers a more solid performance of the company. “Capital value is above all reflected in value created for users. A company that puts value creation for users first should incorporate technologies and services into daily life, solve problems for users, promote convenient access to information and resources, eliminate pain points or empower the industry. A company with a vision and blueprint to draw future lifestyles for users and investors will be trusted by investors with higher value expectations in that it can generate strong, consistent returns for its shareholders,” said Xu.

“A good CFO should also be an expert of business, not just an expert of numbers.”

Years of professional experience in accounting and financial management have made Xu Chong the right person for the job as CFO & Executive Director of Babytree Group. He believed that to be a good CFO, one needs to be a finance professional first, with excellent skills in data analysis, leadership, project management, finance techniques, etc. Meanwhile, a good CFO should also be an expert of business, not just an expert of numbers. He must dive deep into the industry and the business operations to get insights about changes and trends, as part of his efforts to make better planning for the company, whether for the short, medium or long haul, as well as to contribute to the healthy, sustainable development of the company. “Looking ahead, we all need to keep learning, upgrading our skills, and expanding our horizons in pursuit of more opportunities,” said Mr. Xu.

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