The ACCA Hong Kong Business Competition 2015 combines accounting skills with social responsibilities
Mixing business savvy with sustainable development and social responsibility is a dream combination for young entrepreneurs and established companies alike. It’s also the goal for contestants in the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Hong Kong Business Competition 2015.
The annual competition, split into degree and sub-degree categories, is open to full-time accounting and business students at local institutions. Jane Cheng, head of ACCA Hong Kong, says 267 degree teams and 176 sub-degree teams involving almost 1,700 students in total have entered the competition this year.
Their core objective is to create a simulated business environment within which they can develop a sensible and innovative proposal that will not only produce a strong business model, but also benefit the community. The students will learn how input from accounting and business professionals can contribute to the success of a project and, at the same time, help society as a whole.
The competition aims to heighten the social consciousness of participating students, instead of just honing their business skills. In previous years, students were given specific competition themes that target certain social groups. This year, however, teams can choose who they want to benefit: families, children, the disabled, the elderly, the poor or even former criminals.
“We want participants to find out among themselves which group they are genuinely passionate about,” Cheng says.
The HKCSS-HSBC Social Enterprise Business Centre (SEBC) is backing the competition by lining up a number of private funds that are looking for innovative business proposals. Howard Ling, SEBC’s chief consultant, says one such example is The Yeh Family Philanthropy, whose chair Yvette Yeh will be on the judging panel. “These are local foundations that specifically target promising young minds,” he says.
However, he adds that this does not mean the champion team’s proposal will automatically be chosen to receive funding. “The foundations will make their selection after the competition,” he says.
Entrants submitted their brief business proposals in October and 20 business plans for each category were selected. Chosen teams then submitted more detailed business proposals and the top seven finalists for each category will present their ideas to the panel of judges, who will act as the vetting committee for SEBC and question competitors.
Cheng says the judges will assess the finalists based on a set of criteria. The teams’ analytical skills, and ability to integrate ideas and put them into a sound proposal, will be appraised. The most original proposal will win the Most Creative Team Award, while the most outstanding proposal will be recognised with the Best Proposal Award. The Best Budgeting Award will go to the team that shows the highest level of accounting knowledge and skills.
There are also awards for Best Presenter and Best Team Spirit that acknowledge the ability of individual contestants to convey their ideas to the judges.
Besides cash prizes and trophies, shortlisted teams will be given the opportunity to attend workshops held by expert coaches and business leaders to build their knowledge and presentation skills. They will also be invited to network with the panel of judges. Ling adds that the owners of two youth social enterprises will share their experiences and offer advice to finalists.
The final for the degree category is November 21, while the sub-degree competition final is scheduled for November 28.
The ACCA Hong Kong Business Competition 2015 is supported by Baker Tilly, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, EY, Hutchison Global Communications, KPMG, The Hung Hing Ying & Leung Hau Ling Charitable Foundation, and Classified Post.
BE YOURSELF, SHOW PASSION
To distinguish themselves from other finalists, teams should first identify which group they are keen to target and then do plenty of research and preparation prior to the competition, Cheng says.
Finalists will get professional guidance on technical skills at the various workshops and reinforce their ideas with sound business proposals. “But ultimately the best preparation is through teamwork. That’s why this business-simulated competition is for teams. Teamwork is essential at any workplace,” Cheng says.
Ling echoes Cheng’s advice, adding that clear presentations can help teams improve their performance in the Q&A segment. “The champion teams always incorporate tabs in their slides – similar to quick indexes – so whatever the judges ask about, they can show the relevant slides immediately. We saw in the past some teams fumble around with their slides.”
Good presentations are like stories that make emotional connections with the audience, Cheng notes. “Some teams focus on their PowerPoint slides too much. They need to keep in mind that PowerPoint acts as a visual aid only. With thorough rehearsals, the presenters should know the content of their proposals by heart. They should tell the story themselves, rather than rely on the slides.”
Ling says that because finalist teams are engaging the judges and audience with their stories, they should be themselves and show real passion. “They should add their personal touch to their proposals to appeal to potential investors.”
The competition’s theme this year is “Building a Better Society, Stronger Business: Youth can do it” to increase social awareness among young people.
“I believe wherever there are social problems, there will be solutions,” Ling says. “Social awareness begins with local youngsters endeavouring to seek solutions to social problems in other countries and mainland China. Then through adaptation, they develop the solutions for specific problems in Hong Kong. In fact, youths will have already heightened their social awareness through the initial research process.”
Ling adds that he hopes the contestants are specific about the social problems they are targeting and in which countries they wish to develop their solutions.
“Two years ago we made the elderly the sole beneficiaries of the proposed social enterprises; last year we focused on underprivileged families. This year, we have let the contestants decide who will be the target group of their enterprises.”
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Finding the balance.