Career Advice Job fairs and Events

Young CPAs need to adopt new ways of thinking and add value wherever possible

With the arrival of the “Accounting Plus” era, young CPAs need to adopt new ways of thinking if they are to meet changing workplace demands and capitalise on the exciting career prospects offered by ever more diverse roles.

That was one of the core messages from October’s “HKICPA Career Forum 2018”, which was held at the Science Park and emphasised the importance of professional accountants’ role as a vital “connector” within the business world, as well as the need for them to add value wherever possible.

Organised by Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the event attracted hundreds of undergraduates keen to hear the views and insights of thoughts leaders and eminent figures within the profession.

For instance, HKICPA president Eric Tong noted that “Accounting Plus” principle had helped many CPAs advance to leadership positions in their respective organisations, but also that those career journeys usually began with experience in auditing.

“Young CPAs who work in auditing are exposed to the operations of various companies and sectors and accumulate vital insights,” Tong said. “The profession is also the ‘Critical Piece’ because CPAs working for businesses have become increasingly forward-looking. They are able to leverage their insights to give forecasts and advice. And with their combination of higher-order capabilities, many HKICPA members are not just CFOs, but have diversified into other value-adding specialisations.”

Reflecting the concept of “new thinking” which underpinned the forum, Tong explained that use of a “focus group” format created a more informal setting. This, in turn, allowed attending students to move around more freely, thus encouraging more interaction between speakers and audience members plus a greater exchange of ideas and viewpoints.

Jonathan Ng, HKICPA’s acting registrar, added that the profession continued to offer a diverse range of rewarding career paths for young people. These might be seen as something like “accounting plus information technology” or “accounting plus risk management”.

Also, thanks to China’s Greater Bay Area scheme and the Belt and Road initiative, Hong Kong’s status as a regional finance hub looked secure. This meant that the profession had further appeal, with companies in every sector having a need for CPAs’ expertise.

Importantly, it was also confirmed that the New Qualification Programme will be launched in 2020. It will help to broaden access to a CPA qualification, opening another door for interested students, including those without a degree in accounting.

Ng said the forum was a great chance for students to explore everything the profession offers and reflect on where it could take them.

Indeed, many students made a point of visiting the Focus Group zone to hear how successful CPAs had built their careers and moved into different roles and industries. For example, at the “Audit and Risk Management” focus group, they were told how accounting know-how served as a solid foundation for a later move into risk management.

“Although it was very hectic as an auditor in an accounting firm, the experience was highly rewarding,” said one speaker, Ken Lin, who is senior manager for risk advisory at Baker Tilly Hong Kong Risk Assurance. “I especially enjoyed working as part of a team and made many great friends.”

His colleague, Patrick Tong encouraged the students to think carefully about possible career paths and to recognise the breadth of opportunities.

Keith Lee, associate director for forensic accounting at Deloitte China, described some of the specific cases he has handled. He pointed out that his field now encompasses many areas such as business intelligence and forensic work to track evidence in computer files or databases.

At the “Strategic Management” focus group, which was led by Patrick Kwok, general manager of Starbucks Coffee Singapore, many students were curious about possible paths from auditing into business analysis. Kwok said auditors have to pore over company reports and financial statements, which gives them insights into different types of operation. Such experience proved a good grounding in risk assessment and business analysis, Kwok said.

Stephanie Chan, who worked in risk advisory at Deloitte for a while, felt Kwok’s talk was inspiring in the way it outlined how an accounting qualification could open up different options and specialist areas.

Marko Yu, a Year 2 accounting student at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, had attended a previous career forum and felt the new focus group format was effective in bringing participants closer together. “It lets students feel at ease and encourages them to interact more with the speakers more,” Yu said. “I especially enjoyed the forensic accounting focus group because the case study featured a storyline, and it was interesting to hear how the speakers approach an investigation.”

At the “Accounting with New Technologies” workshop, Stanley Yung, partner  of advisory services and Hilbert Tsang, senior manager of advisory services at EY, took the audience through some of the latest advances in digital technology and explained the possible implications for businesses.