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A clean sweep

HKU teams take the top three spots in the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs QP Case Analysis Competition 2013

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) outshone the competition at the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants Qualification Programme (QP) Case Analysis Competition 2013, winning the top three places. This year, contestants were challenged to analyse the case of a local listed fashion company and devise practical strategies for growth.

A record-high 343 teams from 10 local tertiary institutions joined this year’s competition. On November 23, eight finalists from three schools – HKU, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and Polytechnic University (PolyU) – were shortlisted to present their proposals before the judges.

The judges included: Hong Kong Institute of CPAs president Susanna Chiu, who is also director of Li and Fung Development (China); Clement Chan, institute vice-president and managing director of BDO; Dr Alexander Ng, associate principal of McKinsey and Company; institute executive director Jonathan Ng, and Stephen Tang, group chief executive director of Neo-Concept Group.

HKU’s Team 139 – students Karl Chan Ka-ki, Yvonne Cheung Yik-wung, Jessica Chow Lok-yan and Tian Yajing – was crowned champion for its outstanding presentation style and long-term vision on how to run a company.

“The organisation of the presentation was great and they were able to grab the attention of the audience. They came up with a very interesting idea of using a mobile platform as the distribution channel for the future. The creativity of the champion was really impressive. I think young people should be creative and dare to innovate. If they want to have a breakthrough, there is no point doing what has already been done,” Chiu said.

In terms of presentation skills, she praised their holistic approach. “The group has a sincere attitude – they sounded very natural and not as if they were reciting from a script. They also made use of visuals to present their ideas. Good delivery and good content are keys to their success,” Chiu said.

As the case focused on a fashion brand, Chiu said participants could have presented themselves in fashionable outfits rather than in formal business suits.

Chan, another judge, said he was amazed by the students’professionalism. “I was really impressed with the performance of the students, considering they had no experience in the business world at all,” he said.

“As adjudicators, we tried to be tough on them during the question-and-answer section. We wanted to put them in a high-pressure situation to see how they responded. Students certainly did in-depth research on the topic and were highly confident in their presentation, judging from the quality of their answers,” Chan added.

Alexander Ng agreed that presentation skills had improved on past competitions. “Students didn’t have to refer to note cards or the screen when speaking. They were well-rehearsed and presented really well. Judges had to assess their performance in the Q-and-A section to decide the winner. This part was rather harsh because we wanted to differentiate the best from the good ones,” he said.

According to Tang, the winners were able to provide an in-depth analysis of the case. “The winning team members were not all accounting majors, so their diverse make-up allowed them to look at the problem from various angles. I am really happy to see students from different majors showing interest in the competition. The solutions provided by the group were well-supported, which makes them stand out,” he said.

Jonathan Ng said he was happy that the competition provided a chance for students to get a taste of what it was like to work in the business world. “I believe the teams spent many sleepless nights to get ready for the competition. There are no losers here, because mere participation is already a valuable learning experience for each student,” he added.

Chiu agreed, saying that the competition provided a perfect platform for students to gain practical work experience. “This is the competition’s twelfth year. Every year, the calibre of the students keeps getting better. The competition challenges their analytical skills, time management skills, teamwork and business insights – all of which are important traits for an accountant,” she added.

The first and second runners-up were Teams 88 and 141, both from HKU.

The award for best presenter went to Team 88’s Zhang Jialun, a psychology major. “I have learned so much from my team mates who are all business majors. In the beginning, I knew nothing about finance, but I slowly learned from my team mates to look at the case from a business point of view,” Zhang said.

“They asked me to join simply because I had worked for a fashion brand before as an intern,” Zhang added. I tend to be a rather dramatic presenter, but I took my teammates’ advice to tone it down and was able to win the award. I could not have done it without them.”

Zhang, who is in his final university year, said he planned to apply for a job with one of the Big Four accounting and business services firms because he enjoyed working with people.

 “I want to become a business consultant. My strength is in communicating with people, and a consultant’s job will hopefully allow me to build on my strengths,” he said.

There were double winners for the best-written report award, with both Teams 88 and 141 taking home the honours.

The champion team won HK$10,000 cash prize, QP fees waiver, trophy and certificate – all with a total value of HK$13,600. The prize for the first runner-up has a total value of HK$9,600 and, for the second runner-up, it’s HK$7,600.