With Chinese New Year featuring early this year, RSM Nelson Wheeler is preparing for all the expected changes ahead. The accounting and consulting firm is recruiting between 20 and 40 new staff of all grades, preparing for natural attrition and getting ready for a possible expansion, despite a slowing economy.
"Although the economy may not be very satisfactory in 2012, we are still optimistic. I have budgeted for about 10 to 15 per cent growth in headcount," says Chris Wong, staff partner of the firm that, currently, employs more than 360 people.
Wong says the company gets quite a lot of enquiries for initial public offerings (IPOs) amid the listings boom in the Hong Kong stock market. "Some of the enquiries are for IPOs that were originally intended for Singapore and Korea. [They shifted to Hong Kong] as the performance of those stock markets has been very disappointing," Wong says, adding that the firm also expects more business in China.
"Three departments will benefit," Wong says. "Audits - by auditing listed companies and IPO candidates. Tax - through [China] and international tax advisory work, as well as tax planning for foreign companies setting up in China. And corporate advisory - we get a lot of referrals for forensic accounting and insolvency from bankers and lawyers."
RSM Nelson Wheeler is the Hong Kong member firm of RSM International, the sixth-largest international network of accounting firms, according to the ranking compiled by the International Accounting Bulletin. RSM Nelson Wheeler also works closely with RSM China, which has over 3,000 staff.
Wong says staff need to be flexible and ready to travel, as the work requires them to stay in China for about 25 per cent to more than 30 per cent of their working time. "On average, about half of our professional staff stay and work in China," he adds, pointing to some of the empty seats at their Causeway Bay office.
Reading and speaking both Putonghua and Cantonese is a must, but writing in Chinese is not required, Wong says. Other must-haves are strong communication and reporting skills, good time management, and the ability to delegate and work with a team given the limited time and resources available in the peak season.
The firm also values integrity and honesty in employees, and an aptitude for the profession and high quality service are expected. Staff should pursue continuous improvement and have in-depth understanding of industry standards.
The people-part of the business is equally important and the firm aims at maintaining a pool of capable talent who have the expertise to serve both multinationals and small businesses.
Staff are provided regular training. "From August onwards, we have two full-days of training sessions per week for different grades of staff," says Wong.
This equates to one full- or half-day of training every two weeks. The firm requires staff to meet its continuing professional development target of 40 hours each a year, which is above the industry standard - and they can get all of this in-house, Wong says.
The company also organises four to six events a year through its social committee - in line with its categorisation as a Caring Company - for staff to relax and socialise.