As the sole body responsible for granting practising certificates to certified public accountants (CPAs) in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) has a vested interest in maintaining high quality talent among those in the profession.
It was with this in mind that the institute held its annual Career Forum at the Kowloonbay International Trade and Exhibition Centre on October 16.
The main goal of the forum, which drew as many as 700 tertiary education students, was to offer an introduction to the life of an accountant. Accordingly, several practitioners were on hand to share their insights.
Key speakers included Starry Lee Wai-king, legislative councillor, JP; Alice Mui, senior assessor of the Inland Revenue Department; Gary Poon, principal of Poon & Co; and Frenda So, accounting tutor at Modern Education.
Lee, who started her career at a Big Four accounting firm, talked to attendees about the educational rewards of working in the profession as a junior auditor. “I think the greatest privilege of being an accountant is that you can ask the management of a company questions and they will do their best to answer you. Talking to management is a great way for accountants to learn,” she says.
According to Lee, another privilege is that accountants are able to learn about the operational practices of various industries. “If you think auditors just sit in the office and look at numbers, you’re wrong. They often visit clients’ offices and the scope of the businesses that they audit is really diverse,” she says.
Later in the day, forum attendees were given the opportunity for more dialogue with qualified professionals, which, according to Daniel Au, a CPA helping at the event, is an ideal way for students to learn more about the profession.
“Before pursuing a particular career path, it’s always good to find out as much as you can about it,” he says. “Students who came to the forum have done just that.”
While most accounting students have their eyes on the large firms, Au notes that it is equally important to consider what type of culture best suits your character. “Different types of accounting organisations – Big Four firms, small-medium firms, government departments and commercial departments – have different cultures,” he says.
Conference attendee Leo Sze is acutely aware of this. He recently took the added step of joining the Deloitte Club, a company mentorship programme specifically designed to introduce university students to what it might be like to work for the Big Four.
“Since joining the programme, I’ve quickly come to see Deloitte as my number-one choice, not only because it’s a Big Four firm, but because of its corporate culture,” he says.
The Career Forum, which is now in its fourth year, also included a series of mock-interview sessions, as well as a career exhibition session, during which representatives from 16 firms conducted informal discussions with students.