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Grey is gold

Accounting acumen put to the test in this year’s elderly-focused ACCA Business Competition

Entrants to this year’s ACCA Hong Kong Business Competition 2013 will take on the challenge of developing a sustainable business model that will upgrade the consumption experience of local senior citizens.

For the competition, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Hong Kong has partnered with the HKCSS-HSBC Social Enterprise Business Centre (SEBC) to challenge entrants with the task of developing an elderly-friendly “So-Biz” project with long-term benefits.

Each participating team is expected to simulate a project based on a two-year funding plan of HK$1 million. The project should target the elderly as the potential customers.

The SEBC was established by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) with funding from the Hongkong Bank Foundation and the Social Welfare Department’s Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged.

The So-Biz project is organised by the HKCSS and was initially funded by the Trade and Industry Department’s SME Development Fund. The project’s main goal is to promote the idea of “Shop Freely; Serve Friendly” customer service among local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and social enterprises. It also aims to help elevate the competitive edge of these types of business.

In its seventh edition, the competition features degree and sub-degree categories, and is open to full-time accounting and business students from local institutes. A total of 532 teams comprising nearly 2,000 degree and sub-degree students have signed up for the contest this year, says Brenda Lam, head of learning and development at ACCA Hong Kong.

The main objective of the competition is to deepen contestants’ accounting knowledge and to sharpen their business-analysis and communication skills in a simulated competitive business environment. Assuming the role of business consultants, entrants are required to submit brief business proposals on the case questions in MS PowerPoint format.

“The judging criteria includes how well developed the business plans are,” Lam says. “We expect to see supporting materials for the plans, such as market research. We will also assess the commercial feasibility, budget-planning ability and creativity of the plans. The business models should be lucrative and have sustainable positive benefits for the elderly.”

Twenty business plans for each student category will be shortlisted for the following round, with teams of each selected plan tasked with submitting a detailed business proposal. The top five finalist teams for each category will present their proposals to a panel of adjudicators, consisting of SEBC representatives and leading accounting professionals.

The finals for the degree and sub-degree categories are scheduled for November 16 and 30 respectively.

Howard Ling, senior consultant at the SEBC, thinks one of the most important elements of the competition is entrants’ numerical analytical capability, as this is crucial in determining the long-term sustainability of the business models and their potential benefits for senior citizens.

“The business model should be realistic and commercially viable and we have invited several founders of successful social enterprises to be the adjudicators,” says Ling, who has a wealth of experience in helping with the incubation of local social enterprises.

Before putting together their business proposals, contestants need to spend some time doing market research on existing projects and enterprises of a similar nature, Ling adds. For instance, entrants can study analyses of different Hong Kong districts with varied demographics before they formulate specific strategies. “They can also look at successful overseas elderly-friendly enterprises, such as those in Japan,” he says.

All entrants will be awarded a certificate from ACCA Hong Kong, which provides good recognition of their efforts and will help to enrich their CVs. The top five finalist teams of both degree and sub-degree categories will also be invited to attend an interview-skills workshop conducted by veteran coaches to polish their interviewing and presentation techniques.

For the first time, the finalist teams can choose to conduct their presentations in English, Cantonese or Putonghua. “Teams can present in the language they feel most comfortable with,” Lam says.

The competition is supported by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, Hutchison Global Communications, KPMG, and The Hung Hing Ying & Leung Hau Ling Charitable Foundation.