Whether pursuing a career with an accounting firm or in the corporate world, the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) CPA Qualification Programme (QP) provides a strong foundation to take qualified professionals to a top position in any type of organisation, in any sector of the economy.
“I would say the HKICPA’s CPA curriculum and training provides one of the best, if not the best foundation for building a career in either the business world or the professional services sector,” says George Hongchoy, a qualified CPA and CEO of Link Asset Management, Hong Kong’s first and largest real estate investment trust.
He says the broad-based CPA curriculum equips candidates with the technical knowledge and skills necessary to understand accounting, law, corporate finance, risk management and corporate governance. “It also teaches the need for commitment and consistency, which accountants need to practice throughout their careers,” he says.
Outlining how his CPA qualification helped shape his career, Hongchoy explains that being able to understand financial data is a key component of financial planning, making investment decisions and managing a company. He says exposure to people from different professions and industries has taught him the value of examining different points of view.
“Seeing two sides of an issue from different perspectives can help in various decision-making processes,” says Hongchoy, who has taken on a number of senior management roles, including managing director and head of DBS Asia Capital, director and head of diversified industries at NM Rothschild & Sons (Hong Kong) and managing director of investment banking at JP Morgan Securities (Asia-Pacific).
Hongchoy’s CPA knowledge and experience have also contributed to his level of job satisfaction. “Having a CPA background has allowed me to try new things, be inquisitive and also be adaptable. It helps to feed my mindset,” he adds. To remain successful, he emphasises the importance of staying up to date with business trends and information. “There is so much more information available these days both in hard copy and online that selecting relevant information can be difficult.” Hongchoy recalls during his early days as an accountant, before the widespread use of computers, how using a ledger was an art form. “It was a talent to write beautifully with a fountain pen.”
Because accountants are in demand, Hongchoy says there are plenty of opportunities for making a career choice based on personal interests.
“Accountants can, and do, work almost anywhere,” he says, dismissing the idea that accounting is monotonous. “If you are a keen musician, but for some reason unable to follow your dreams as a professional musician, you can still look for a position as an accountant or chief finance officer with a music company where you can stay close to your passion.”
While life in the business world is speeding up, he stresses that becoming a competent accountant takes time and it is crucial that young accountants build their knowledge and skill sets in a structured way through the CPA programme and on-the-job experience.
He adds that whether working for a Big Four accounting firm or a boutique CPA company, young accountants should try to gain as much exposure as possible to different industries and the professionals that operate within the various sectors.
Being prepared to take on more tasks than expected is another way of learning faster, but career progression will be measured over months and years, rather than days and weeks. “Even after six years in the profession, a young accountant will only have seen six complete cycles of clients’ financial figures,” Hongchoy says.
Despite a wide range of challenges including global economic uncertainty and a slowdown in the mainland economy, Hongchoy believes there are bright opportunities for both new entrants and those seeking to advance their career in the accounting industry.
“Having China accounting experience, which is easier now because of mutual recognition of qualifications and conversion courses, is a valuable asset in a career portfolio.”
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Seeing both sides of the coin.