Few professions are recession-proof, but accountants tend to be busy during good economic times, as well as periods of economic downturn. When times are good, companies need accountants for auditing their initial public offerings, and when times are bad, they are needed to work on insolvencies and liquidations. Mergers and acquisitions bridge both peaks and troughs, and require that due diligence be carried out by the right people.
"Different business climates bring different opportunities for the accounting industry. We always need people to join us," says Pammy Fung, director, Crowe Horwath (HK) CPA.
Although Fung expects the euro-zone crisis to affect the global economy, and that Hong Kong will slow down next year, the firm keeps on expanding with a growing number of assignments from the mainland.
For 2012, the firm is hiring 40 to 50 fresh graduates and at least 50 staff across other grades, as well as over 60 interns during the youngsters' spring and summer holidays.
Important requirements for potential candidates include good time and stress management to deal with tight deadlines, and a strong commitment to ongoing professional development.
Proficiency in English, Cantonese and Mandarin is checked during the interview process. The job also requires good teamwork and excellent communication and analytical skills, and, at the higher echelons, the ability to manage a team.
"People with good technical and leadership skills will be promoted step by step, until they reach the top management level at our firm," says Fung. "We always have vacancies at the upper levels due to the firm's expansion - [staff] only have to worry about whether they are competent enough for promotion."
For instance, the audit groups have grown from nine to 13, Fung adds. Another expanding field is business risk services.
"This topic is very hot now. We do internal control and corporate governance reviews, due diligence, anti-money laundering, fraud risk assessment and outsourcing and co-sourcing of internal audits," she says.
The jobs in business risk services require a global view, Fung says. Travelling is also a must in most positions. The firm offers excellent career opportunities, with three levels of training - depending on the extent of the staff's experience - which mostly takes place in the fourth quarter, in-house or through the Crowe Horwath International network. The firm also offers its employees study and examination leave.
Staff are eligible to work in neighbouring countries - such as China, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam - on an assignment basis, or have the chance to go overseas on secondment, which might take six to nine months at other member firms of the Crowe Horwath network in the United States and elsewhere.
With its Caring Company distinction, the firm's rich corporate social responsibility activities have built strong team spirit among the 300 employees. Programmes include building and maintaining schools in China, providing scholarships and grants to Chinese students and donating to charitable organisations.
Staff also act as honorary accountants for over 30 non-profit-making and charitable organisations.