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Gearing up for China's golden decade

Fifteen years have passed since the handover, during which time Hong Kong accountants have taken an increasingly large part in China’s rapid growth – especially in the capital market. ShineWing (HK) CPA, a Beijing-based accounting firm, is setting itself up to grasp even more opportunities that China will offer in the coming “golden decade”.

“We are expecting a huge growth in China’s capital market in the next decade,” says Roy Lo, deputy managing partner at ShineWing. “Our prediction is based on the fact that China has come to a critical point and will develop its capital market heavily, including business opportunities in company listings, mergers and acquisitions, derivatives, and the internationalisation of the renminbi.”

According to Lo, there are only about 1,600 companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and about 2,000 companies on the two A-share stock markets in Shenzhen and Shanghai. These numbers are far lower than stock exchanges in developed markets. There are more than 10,000 companies listed on stock exchanges in the US and more than 8,000 in Europe. In Japan, where the market has been slow for many years, there are still about 5,000 companies listed on stock exchanges.

“There is huge potential in China’s capital market,” Lo says. “A majority of listed companies in Hong Kong come from the mainland. These companies include state-owned companies, red-chip companies [Chinese companies incorporated outside mainland China and listed in Hong Kong] and private companies. Our niche is that we are experts on China. We know how to help mainland companies develop their overseas businesses, including getting listed in Hong Kong.”

ShineWing has offices in 14 cities in mainland China and five more in the Asia-Pacific region, with a total of 3,500 staff. Its strong Chinese background helps differentiate it from the Big Four and other local firms.

“Our business aims at meeting the needs of China’s capital market by providing professional accounting services for listed companies and those who are preparing for a listing. We focus on equipping our talent with the skills required,” Lo says.

When dealing with listed companies that involve public interest, there is a high demand for knowledge on laws and regulations. Lo says that it is important for graduates to attain professional qualification as early as possible after graduation. In order to practise in China, accountants are required to pass the exams of The Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants – the only professional qualification for accountants in mainland China.

Staff at ShineWing are also required to travel frequently and meet clients with different backgrounds. “They need to have the soft skills to deal with different people and have the ability to adapt to different environments. On average, about 60 per cent of staff working days are spent outside the office,” Lo says. “You may need to work during winter in Harbin or summer in Xinjiang. It is very challenging for some young people who prefer sitting in an air-conditioned office.

“China experience can only be gained by working in China. Accountants who aspire to enter the Chinese market should be prepared to spend extra effort and time as the market is still developing and is not yet mature. But for those who long for the China experience, it is the best time to take the opportunity. The experience will become very valuable in the next five to 10 years as China continues to grow. For our staff, 99 per cent want to gain that China experience.”

ShineWing hires about 600 to 800 staff, mainly fresh graduates, in China and Hong Kong every year. This year, the Hong Kong office alone received more than 1,000 applications for 50 positions. The company also invites local universities to nominate accounting students to join their internship programme. During the programme, participants can work out whether they are suitable for the industry and decide on their speciality areas.

Once staff have joined the company, they are required to go through a series of career-development programmes. These include an ongoing coaching programme, soft-skills training and technical-training workshops on specific topics. ShineWing also provides exam assistance and offers incentives and rewards for staff who successfully gain professional qualifications.

“The career-development path of an accountant is quite straightforward and is universal across the industry,” Lo says. “You learn all the basics as junior staff in the first three years, take up leadership roles as senior staff in the next two to three years, and manage client portfolios in the following five to six years. In about 11 years, you can become a partner in the company.”