Career Advice HR Focus

Lifelong friends

Accounting giant EY vows to build permanent links with staff, even if they don’t stay

Big Four accounting firm EY believes that providing staff with solid career prospects is the best way to retain them.

Michael Wong, Greater China talent leader at EY, says that learning and training is a lifelong commitment for the company and its staff.

“From day one we organise training of staff of different ranks. There are training courses on accounting technical knowledge as well as soft skills to help staff brush up on their communication and social skills. Personal development is also a key focus. Every newcomer is assigned a counsellor who will help them with career-planning and goal-setting. The counsellor provides support for new joiners on a daily basis and helps them grow as a person,” he says.

Wong explains that the company is serious about establishing long-term relationships with employees, regardless of whether they are still working at EY. “We have a slogan: ‘Whenever you join, however long you stay, the exceptional EY experience lasts a lifetime,’” he says. “Every year in Greater China we employ more than 2,000 fresh gradates and certainly not all of them are going to stay with us long term. No matter whether they stay or not, our approach is to nurture them and help them develop into successful individuals. We have an alumni network of former EY staff. Even though they are no longer with the company, we are still friends.”

As an international accounting firm, EY provides a wide range of opportunities for staff to gain exposure overseas. “Transfers to a foreign country are strongly encouraged. We have a global exchange programme for staff to work in Britain and the US for up to 18 months. Those who cannot remain committed for so long can choose to go to a place within the Asia-Pacific region for three to six months as part of our New Horizon programme. EY pitches a diverse and inclusive working culture and it is important for staff to gain more exposure,” Wong says.

To help staff balance work and life, EY allows flexible working hours. Staff can choose to work four days or less a week, or take prolonged leave for up to a year to achieve personal goals or take care of other commitments before returning to work. “The policy allows staff to arrange working hours according to their own needs. For example, staff with children can choose to take long summer breaks to be with their family,” Wong says.

The company is looking for a senior manager for its financial service advisory department and risk management and compliance team. Candidates should have eight to 12 years of experience in, and strong knowledge of, compliance principles applicable to investment banking, capital markets and wealth management.

“The successful candidate will be responsible for leading his or her team to work on projects like advising on structuring approaches to emerging regulatory compliance or regulatory exam findings and communicating with regulators to help manage changes in the regulatory policies,” Wong says. Senior-level consulting experience is preferred.

Fornia Lei Lai-ying, manager of tax and business advisory services, interned at EY before joining as a fresh graduate. After gaining a degree in processional accountancy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, she decide to join EY – despite having offers from other firms – because of its caring culture.

“I did a six-month internship at EY during the summer in my second year at university. I remember that during the first few days of my internship, my coach spent the whole morning teaching me tax technical, despite it being the busiest season in the tax department. All the staff and senior colleagues were eager to teach and provide guidance whenever, or even before, I sought help. This made me feel care was all around me,” she says.

Support for staff at EY is a continuing process. Every employee is assigned a counsellor to help him or her with a career-development plan throughout the different stages of their career.

“The counsellor reviews and discusses our development regularly,” Lei says. “I think this helps a lot with my career, as well as with personal development. For training, regular technical training classes conducted by technical teams and executives from different service lines are held. We are also provided with training to strengthen soft skills such as writing and communication.”

One of the best things about working at EY, according to Lei, is the exposure she gets. “The job provides opportunities to meet clients from different industries and understand their operations. Currently, my clients are diversified and range from individuals and sole proprietors to multinational corporations. I enjoy learning about their operations and special characteristics, which build up my awareness of the commercial business environment,” she says.

Looking ahead, Lei’s goal is to become a business planning professional. “I want to assist my clients in developing tax-efficient operations and exploring opportunities. The firm provides me with lots of opportunities to participate in tax-advisory projects. In addition to routine tasks, I started taking part in tax controversy cases in the year I joined the firm. With accumulated experience in handling advisory work on different issues, I am able to apply critical thinking when providing advice to answer clients’ questions,” she says.