Career Advice Recruitment tips

A matter of maths

Published on Friday, 31 Aug 2012

Agnes Chan Sui-kuen, regional managing partner for Hong Kong and Macau at Ernst & Young (E&Y), advises job applicants to be clear about their passion before applying to the firm.

“Accounting is a challenging and tough field, so applicants have to be prepared, and willing, to work hard. I always refer to the four basic mathematical operations when encouraging my staff: add on effort, reduce arrogance, multiply opportunities and eliminate laziness,” she says.

E&Y, one of the Big Four accounting firms, plans to recruit 2,000 staff in China, including 400 in Hong Kong, this year. There will be openings for both experienced professionals and fresh graduates.

“We are looking to hire candidates who are seeking a career, rather than just a job, in accounting. People should not join an accounting firm only for the salary. We are also looking for individuals with high integrity because accountants handle a lot of confidential information,” Chan says.

To help staff adapt to the demanding career of an accountant, E&Y’s high-performance environment is designed to bring out the best in bright, inspired people. The company offers various programmes to help staff integrate into the company’s working environment.

“For newcomers, the company assigns a counsellor and a buddy to help them settle,” Chan says. “This is part of our caring culture. The counsellor is a more senior member of staff who guides the fresh hire on career planning. The buddy is someone in a less senior position, who the newcomer can talk to as a friend.

“Staff meet formally with their counsellors at least three times a year – at the start of the year, to set the performance goals and development objectives; at mid-year, to evaluate progress against the performance goals and development objectives; and at year-end, to review performance and set objectives for the following year. By working with the counsellor, staff can work out their development needs to ensure they are on target to achieve their goals.”

Training is an ongoing journey for any professional. E&Y is committed to helping newcomers gain the qualifications they need to advance their career, as well as meet the requirements of professional bodies and institutes.

EYU, or “EY and You”, is the company’s training and development framework. It focuses on three pillars: learning, experience and coaching. “We have developed a training map for all our people. It sets out things to learn each year, to steadily fill in what different individuals need and to enhance their careers,” Chan says.

“Initially, the focus is on core technical courses required to complete professional qualifications. However, the firm also gives plenty of attention to teaching soft skills, which are essential in the accounting sector, where success is built on maintaining good relationships with clients. Equipped with this knowledge, staff are better able to identify opportunities with clients and make business-related decisions.

“We also have experience maps to define the experience people can expect to receive at each stage of their career. Coaching is also an important aspect as we believe feedback is important to our people’s development.”

Eugenie Chan Yuen-jing, manager, assurance services, joined E&Y after graduating as a staff accountant in assurance practices. Now in her second year at manager level in assurance services, she works with an extensive directory of Hong Kong-listed clients.

“Back in college, I attended a recruitment talk by E&Y. At that time, seven years ago, E&Y was the only professional firm that was ‘approachable’ for fresh graduates like me. The caring, inclusive and open-door culture attracted me to join,” she says.

With its “people first” culture, E&Y positions staff to be the driving force that retains high-performing professionals. “E&Y is a firm that makes people a very high priority and offers a wide range of opportunities to assist every professional’s career pursuit,” Eugenie Chan says. “I also appreciate the global, highly integrated and diverse nature of the company.”

Having participated in a Global Exchange Program where she worked at the company’s New York office for 18 months, Chan thinks the experience has helped her to excel both professionally and personally.

“The experience provides opportunities to live abroad without putting my career on hold. Moving to another country on a long-term assignment enables me to immerse myself in the culture, instead of just seeing everything at a surface level, and to look at my own country through the eyes of an outsider makes me much more aware of who I am. With our clients demanding ever greater access to teams of professionals with international experience, the ability to bring global insights to our clients’ business values is of high priority,” she says.