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Glued to the television

Published on Thursday, 30 Sep 2010
Cindy Chow hopes to run a channel one day.
Photo: Edward Wong

Working for one of the world's leading broadcasters that last year launched 45 new channel feeds, Cindy Chow constantly faces new challenges.  As chief financial officer for Fox International Channels in the Asia-Pacific region and Middle East, she is involved in ensuring the profitability and financial health of a fast-moving organisation in an expanding market.

What did you gain from your early years with Deloitte?

I had done a summer internship with them in Hong Kong, which gave me some good experience and an insight into what life is like as an accountant.

When I then joined them after graduation, I came to see that the training they give is like having a fast-track ticket. In the first couple of years as an auditor, the clients I worked with ranged from banks, insurance companies to mobile phone battery manufacturers to restaurants, so you see different industries and even learn things like how much bird’s nest a chef should keep in the kitchen.  

What marked a turning point in your career?

After getting my professional qualifications [in accounting], I wanted to be in an industry that could inspire me and which I felt passionate about. I found that in the media sector where you can really see the products - the television shows and the movies - and feel the impact of what's happening. 

I got my initial break in the industry as a financial analyst with Disney, and the size of the company meant I was able to move around and get experience with the compliance team, on the [information technology] financial planning side, and then working on shared accounting services and controllership. Looking back, I always felt I had to go for something with a creative component, and not just be a traditional bean-counter.

Were there roles you automatically ruled out? 

I could never work for a tobacco company even if the profits were good and they offered a great salary When I did my professional training with CPA Australia, the lecturers stressed the importance of ethics and corporate social responsibility, so for me those ideas have been deeply implanted since.            

What has helped you get ahead? 

I am very much a people person, even if I'm dealing with numbers a lot of the time. A common theme of success stories in the pay-TV business is that you'll do well if you are interested in people and believe in them. 

I'm fascinated by anyone in this company - computer animators, producers, directors, performers - who can create something, touch others and entertain. It has also helped to work for companies with a clear vision, which isn't just about the profit margin. This makes it easier to be engaged and believe in what you're doing.

What are your greatest challenges?

In any job, you're not going to be happy every day. When there are problems to resolve, it is a chance to improve. 

In terms of finance and accounting operations, it never stops. Before you know it, the [end of the month] comes around and there are always deadlines to meet and reports and analyses to be done. The team has to be almost tireless. But there can be no compromise on quality and internal controls.

What are your ambitions? 

I would love to go into operations and run a channel. The best would be something like the Fox Channel with diversified content and the chance to test the waters with controversial and edgy programming. I would try to make it appeal to the audience in Hong Kong with an East-meets-West approach because I think there are opportunities for a channel like that to grow. 

Changing channels

  • Favourite TV shows include Grey's Anatomy and wildlife documentaries on National Geographic Channels
  • Practises yoga as a way to chill out
  • Childhood dream was to be lawyer and she is still fascinated by courtroom scenes in TV series


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