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Keeping your options open

Published on Friday, 20 Jun 2014

With Hong Kong's business environment becoming more complex, accounting firms have expanded and so have specialist opportunities for CPAs. Jemelyn Yadao finds out how accountants are getting into the most in-demand fields

All accountants might believe they are a part of a special profession, but many are trying to stand out from the crowd even more, by entering the more rarefied world of specializations.

Galaxy Chan, a partner at KPMG China and a member of the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs, followed the usual career path: she joined a CPA firm as an audit junior. But after swapping financial statements for distressed companies, she is now in the restructuring services team and has found her niche role. 

As Hong Kong’s business environment becomes more sophisticated, so too are the roles of accountants. An increasing number of Institute members are finding postqualified career development appealing and building their expertise by pursuing a specialism. By specializing, many of them are finding that they are setting the right course for their career and achieving their full potential.

The accounting profession is now far-ranging, offering employees numerous specializations and career options, which, as Chan remembers, were previously scarce. “There wasn’t any transaction and restructuring specialism when I first joined the firm, but the firm had a general insolvency department, which did not offer the various services we offer today, but was branching out into the areas of corporate finance and forensic accounting,” recalls Chan.

Since then, KPMG’s transactions and restructuring service has expanded and currently encompasses many divisions. “As well as restructuring… we have corporate finance, forensic accounting, trans¬action services, debt advisory and valuation,” Chan says.

The spread of new service areas in firms continues, giving CPAs more chances to specialize. This year, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu is launching a public sector practice. “While the consulting practice is the dominant [area] for our China firm, the public sector is probably the fastest growing industry around the world for many firms,” says Karon Wan, the firm’s public sector managing partner and an Institute member. 

Like many other firms, Deloitte has been developing its industry programme by building dedicated teams around various sectors. The move brings the number of industries the firm serves to eight all of which demand specialist expertise. “We want to give value added services, whether it’s the public sector, the retail business or the oil and gas business,” says Wan. 

“So we need people who understand the trends and insights of the industry valuable experiences that we are able to give to customers,” he says, adding that existing employees who are interested in working in new service offerings can be trained. 

The firms can benefit from supporting the development of specialized streams, notes Wan. “It’s very competitive these days. In order to stay ahead of the industries, we have to specialize in different areas that provide a stream of steady revenues.” 

Wan adds that it’s not just Big Four firms like his that have turned to specialization. “I would say that a lot of so-called tier-two accounting firms can do as much as we can these days.” 

 

Source:  HKICPA's  APlus Magazine – September 2013

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