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Accounting

Beyond the numbers

by Grace Chan

Andrew Lam, staff partner
Grant Thornton
Photo: Lewis Wong

International accounting firm provides budding professionals a growth platform

As initial public offering (IPO) activities are expected to remain vigorous throughout the year, this has prompted an increased demand for auditing services. In response, one top-notch accountancy firm has recently stepped up its hiring drive for both new graduates and experienced professionals.

"Thanks to the market recovery, we have made an upward readjustment for the number of new hires by 10 to 15 per cent lately. We anticipate a 50 per cent growth in the total number of new joiners this financial year," says Andrew Lam, staff partner, Grant Thornton. "Among them, about 50 to 60 will be fresh graduates."

While most professional firms reduced their hiring activity amid the recent economic woes, the faster-than-expected market revitalisation has fuelled their new recruitment demand. "Staying optimistic for the business outlook, we expect an additional intake of fresh graduates early next year apart from the one scheduled in October this year," Mr Lam reveals. "This has rarely happened since the economic boom in 2007."

For international accountancy firms like Grant Thornton, two key factors are boosting a wealth of business opportunities: the increasing number of mainland enterprises seeking overseas expansion through a public listing in Hong Kong and the incessant encouragement for inbound investment by the mainland government.

"All of this inbound and outbound business activity on the mainland requires our assurance services to provide companies with insights into the real performance of a business," says Mr Lam, adding that assurance services account for half of the company's total revenue. "They may also require professional advice on business risk, taxation arrangement, reviewing internal financial controls or completing due diligence checks."

Comprehensive training

Currently, Grant Thornton has a staff of 600 people in the Hong Kong office, with more than half of them specialising in assurance services. In order to meet the rising service demand, the company has beefed up manpower across departments, particularly the assurance division. "In addition to our regular intake of fresh graduates, we also welcome candidates with relevant assurance experience from other top firms as we hope to bring in more fresh minds to our business," Mr Lam notes.

These days, accounting professionals no longer deal only with figures and spreadsheets, they are also taking on the role of business adviser. He says, "Our clients pay a premium for value-added advisory service. As such, our staff have to be good team players who communicate with people from within our organisation and those from clients. Besides, they're expected to think out of the box."

To prepare fresh graduates for their future roles, Grant Thornton immerses them in a six-week comprehensive training programme designed to transfer their university education into essential workplace accountancy skills. The new recruits also receive technical training for operating the audit software developed by Grant Thornton and learn soft skills such as basic client and teamwork techniques.

For non-accounting graduates, a conversion programme is offered to uncover meaning behind numbers. Still, they are expected to sit through a professional accounting examination in the first year of their tenure.

More importantly, all the firm's staff receive continuous learning opportunities to ensure they are up to speed with the latest industry rules and knowledge, and maintain their skills.

Considering the large portfolio of clients, Mr Lam believes both high-performing newcomers and experienced professionals can expect a highly rewarding career at Grant Thornton.

Instead of training up assurance specialists for particular industries, the firm prefers to equip its staff with all-round skills that are applicable to all enterprises and industries. "Our staff are exposed to a large clientele including both local and overseas listed companies and from various industries," he says.

Mainland exposure

As mainland related businesses become a key growth driver in recent years, all of Grant Thornton staff will gain considerable mainland experience in addition to local and international exposure, Mr Lam adds.

In particular, budding professionals can learn the intricacies of the profession in two to three years and eventually turn into competent business consultants. The next step up is to take a managerial role in about five years, on average, depending on individual performance.

"The accounting profession is all about people and our human touch makes us a preferred employer," says Mr Lam.

Grant Thornton ranks work-life balance at the top of its priorities, allowing flexible work arrangements, birthday leave, and extra holidays for maternity or study leave. Mr Lam remarks, "We have even closed our office on a Friday afternoon and do recreational activities together."

Interaction among the different teams is highly encouraged, particularly between senior and junior staff. "All our partners enjoy walking around the office and visit audit teams working in clients' offices. By doing this, we hope our staff feel valued as individuals as well as part of the team," Mr Lam emphasises.

Make a mark

  • Market recovery fuels greater manpower demand for the accounting field
  • Top firm offers unbeatable career opportunities for young graduates
  • Comprehensive training and all-round exposure provided
  • Work-life balance arrangements help foster staff relations

Taken from Career Times 4 June 2010, A11


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