HKICPA Career Forum 2016: Packed with possibility
Aspiring accountants from across Hong Kong’s universities congregated at Cyberport on October 2, 2016 to gain insight and information on the latest trends and opportunities in the accounting profession.
The full-day event, titled Career Forum 2016 – Passport for Business, was organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) and featured a career exhibition, a “CV Doctor” service, opportunities to mingle with qualified CPAs, and seven separate workshops covering subjects from financial advisory and tax compliance to strategic business management and big data and analytics.
The CV Doctor session proved popular, with five consultants from specialist professional recruiting consultancy Robert Walters giving on-the-spot advice to university students on their résumés.
The forum’s panel discussion – the highlight of the day – enabled attendees to interact and share views both with the panellists and amongst each other. Chaired by Eric Tong, HKICPA vice-president and convener of the forum advisory panel, the discussion featured four panellists: Ivy Cheung, HKICPA president and partner at KPMG; Fiona Chow, finance director, Mannings, Dairy Farm Group; Michael Wan, assistant manager, KPMG; and Hubert Wong, finance manager, group finance, Jardine Matheson.
Chow expressed great optimism regarding the demand for accountants. Asked whether current economic conditions were undermining the demand for accountants, she replied: “Not at all. Every company needs accountants, and even when there is an economic downturn, the resulting increase in mergers and acquisitions would lead to a growing demand for accounting professionals.”
Cheung echoed this view, explaining that the accounting profession is multi-faceted. “No matter what the economic conditions are and whether prospects are good or bad, accountants are still very much in demand.”
Cheung also stressed that candidates should not worry about the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) reducing the demand for accountants.
“AI is created and operated by human beings, and will remain this way. What it does is that it enables us to expand our scope of work. AI will never replace accounting professionals.”
One question from students asked: “How can an accountant say no to a client but still keep them happy?” Cheung replied that this is an “art” and that accountants have a duty to maintain compliance and safeguard the interests of stakeholders. “It takes wisdom and integrity,” she said.
Chow added: “We work not only for the boss, but also closely with all stakeholders. As resources are limited, the art is to balance different interests and achieve the most.”
Wan explained that there are generally a number of solutions from which accountants can choose. “Saying no to clients is often the first step to creating the best solution.”
Students also wanted to find out whether the work of junior accountants was repetitive. Wong gave a passionate response: “Never,” he said “New issues pop up more often than you think. And thanks to developing technologies, junior accountants can now do more higher-level work than before.”
Cheung added that there are more secondment opportunities these days, while Chow stressed that “the sense of novelty never erodes”.
“In the first few years, junior accountants have the opportunity to visit different clients, and those working in large corporations can rotate between departments,” she said.
Envisioning future trends
One of the forum’s morning workshops focused on the hot topic of big data and analytics. Speaker Matthew Cheng, corporate vice president and group financial controller at Tencent, started off introducing the 4 Vs of big data: volume, velocity, variety and value.
“Given its volume, velocity and variety, big data provides value to all stakeholders through various applications,” he said. “One is location-based services. Big data can enable us to track the location of individual users, and provide information and services specifically for them.”
Cheng added that advanced advertising is location-based and considers users’ demographics to achieve market segmentation. Each user sees only the advertisements relevant to them, thus minimising disturbance.
“Based on search requests, we can even do forecasts – such as the outcome of the US elections,” he said.
An afternoon workshop on tax compliance and planning took an in-depth look on the future of this area of accounting. William Chan, partner, tax, at Grant Thornton Tax Services, talked about the growing trend of the international exchange of tax-related information.
“Country-by-country reporting is becoming more common. There is high transparency at the international level,” he said. “BEPS – base erosion and profit shifting – is growing in importance, and corporations can take advantage of gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to lower or no-tax locations, and this is perfectly legitimate.”
Another afternoon workshop on management consultancy provided insights on what it is like to work on this side of the profession. Lyris Wong, partner, consulting, at PwC, highlighted what it takes to be a good consultant.
“Once I was interviewed for a consultancy job. The interview lasted an hour, during which the interviewer asked only two questions, amounting to just 15 minutes. The remaining 45 minutes was for me to ask the interviewer questions instead,” she said. “I then realised that it was deliberate – the interviewer wanted to see how curious I was about the job and the profession.”
Curiosity, she explained, is a key prerequisite for a good consultant. “You must be hungry for information and eager to learn fast. The craving for solid and detailed information, plus an analytical mind, form the basis for a successful career in consultancy.”
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Packed with possibility.