Hong Kong's accounting industry has been thriving on Chinese company listings on the city's stock exchange, as well as on mainland mergers and acquisitions. The profession is still in a very good position, with accounting companies hiring hundreds of talent every year.
"Many companies in China are still looking at listing in Hong Kong. The market will demand good, competent accountants. The demand is there," says Roy Lo, ShineWing's deputy managing partner for assurance and business advisory services.
However well paid, respected and stable the profession is, it demands many sacrifices from its fresh hires straight from school, such as working until the wee hours. It also has a steep learning curve.
Fresh graduates should think very carefully if they want to join, Lo says.
"Ask yourself, do you have an interest in this field? Do you have competency? If your competency is not in working with figures, it is quite difficult to work in this field," says Lo, who is also vice-president of CPA Australia's Greater China division. "[Applicants] should have a clear mindset and career aspirations, which is linked to passion and commitment. This profession is for people who look for a career, not a job."
He says career planning should start in the second or third year of study, and should span five years to give it a fair chance.
Headquartered in Beijing, ShineWing is one of China's largest accounting firms with 3,000 staff and 14 branches on the mainland and four overseas offices.
The Hong Kong office, which has 250 staff, is hiring for junior to managerial positions in different service lines. Lo says the company is very competitive in offering comprehensive professional experience and relevant China work exposure.
Interviews include a group discussion on a given topic to check the fresh graduates' communication and presentation skills, a written test to check their English, a chat in Putonghua, and a second interview with a company partner and manager.
While about 85 per cent of the fresh hires are typically accounting graduates, those with a recognised degree can also join, says Lo.
Vincent Woo, assistant manager for assurance and business advisory services, cautions: "They should understand what they are looking for in a job."
ShineWing emphasises training, and career development is ensured if staff are dedicated, Lo says. Depending on their experience, staff will be trained in presentation, planning and project management, ethics and communication.
Woo says the best part of his job is feeling the team's support. "Sometimes we work until midnight. It is nice when the team gives you support and encouragement," he says, adding that the most important and difficult part is project management. "The better plan you have before you start, the better the cooperation within the team," he says.