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Growing global

Published on Saturday, 11 Oct 2014
Photo: Sky Lip

Many firms seek professionals who can perform effectively in a globalised workplace. At leading professional services firm EY, however, the breadth of its international business makes a global mindset essential.

"When we say globalised, it doesn't mean we only have offices around the world, it is the way we have structured ourselves," says Jovy Wong, EY's associate director of talent. "We are globalised in terms of mindset, in terms of structure and in terms of how we operate."

The firm regularly builds teams across countries and offices throughout the Asia-Pacific region to meet the varied needs of clients whose businesses span as many as 50 countries. That means EY professionals need to be able to adapt to different ways of working, different cultures and different mindsets.

Currently, EY has about 100 vacancies spread evenly among its three core activities: assurance, tax and advisory. Half of the roles require three to five years of experience, a quarter are at the executive level, and 10 per cent are at senior manager or associate director level.

Wong says growing initial public offering (IPO) activity and an increasing focus on compliance and regulation by companies is behind the firm's expansion. "Companies are talking about how to improve their processes and manage their risk," she says. "That's where our advisory comes in. Therefore we have a very fast-growing advisory practice."

Another 30 jobs are available in various back-office functions, including human resources, risk management, legal, finance and information technology.

EY is also eager to hear from those from other backgrounds who have in-depth industry experience that matches the firm's clients' business areas, which include telecoms, IT, media, retail and banking.

"If people have some deep industry or sector knowledge, that is definitely an advantage, especially in the advisory service," Wong says. "We have to provide advice - how do you manage your risk, how do you manage process improvement? So if we have someone with real insider in-depth knowledge, that is great."

New hires will join a firm with no little prestige attached to it. "Last year, we were the IPO market leader in Hong Kong, in terms of the number of companies we brought to market," Wong says. EY is also the auditor for the top three companies in Fortune's "Most Admired Companies" list.

The firm has about 170,000 employees worldwide, including more than 2,000 in Hong Kong. It filled 300 professional roles in the city last year, and continues to grow, meaning there is no shortage of career opportunities.

"EY is one of the fastest growing professional services organisations," Wong says. "For applicants, that means there are plenty of opportunities for moving up the ladder."

Once on board, new hires follow a clear career path that can see them become staff accountants or associates after two years and a senior manager after three to five years. There is also the possibility of running an entire portfolio after five to six years.

They will also gain exposure to a range of high-performing companies and industries, and be able to build a valuable network of contacts, both from the firm's client base and from among colleagues in Hong Kong and around the world.

Training is delivered through a combination of learning, experience and coaching designed to help candidates develop rather than just receive instruction. The content varies according to rank and practice area, and is supplemented by regular updates in technical skills and soft skills training on topics such as negotiation and presentation skills.

In addition to the technical skills and experience individual roles require, a global mindset, the ability to work with different cultures and good communication skills are some of the most important attributes EY looks for in potential hires.

"What is special to EY and what helps candidates stand out is whether they have a very global mindset," Wong explains. "Our corporate culture is supportive and high-performing. Our clients come from cultures all around the world, from entrepreneurial businesses, government and global corporations. And doing the best work possible for them means getting ideas, experience and cultural know-how from the most diverse group of people.

"So if the candidate can work across cultures, it's a great advantage and what we look for."

That doesn't mean candidates need to have lived abroad or travelled extensively, Wong points out, adding that it is more a question of attitude.

"How you take feedback from others - how you take instructions, are you able to listen actively and not just do things the way you have always done them [are all important]," she says.

"We are a people business. We think up solutions for our clients. So it's also important whether you can bring in new ideas, your experience, and your ability to advise clients."

Team spirit is another quality that is highly valued at the Big Four firm.

"In EY, it's very important to know that you are not working only by yourself, you are in a team," Wong says. "Of course you need to be ambitious, but you also need to be not too aggressive or defensive. There will be a lot of people providing you with feedback.

"If you're open-minded and willing to learn, EY is one of the best learning organisations. We're there to help you and provide you with opportunities."

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