Although intangible, a firm's culture is one of its most valuable assets. It encompasses every staff member and function of a firm including client relations, professional practices, marketing, promotion and quality of service.
KPMG is acutely aware of the significance of its own culture. "We have a clearly defined ethical and value structure. Our core values are globally practised. Furthermore, translating these values to both employees and clients is as important to us as profitability," says Daniel Li, director of human resources, KPMG, China & Hong Kong SAR.
According to Mr Li, the firm's shared values serve to guide staff in how they should interact not only with one another, but with clients and the community. He points out that integrity is vital throughout all levels of the firm since KPMG performs auditing services. "We aspire to uphold the highest standards of professional ethics," he says. "Integrity is an extremely important element in accountancy since the information involved has profound implications for both clients and the public. We pride ourselves on being an ethical and responsible corporate citizen."
KPMG China & Hong Kong SAR is part of a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax and advisory services with an industry focus. The group today has more than 113,000 staff in 148 countries. Its presence in Hong Kong goes back to 1945, and it now has 5,400 professionals stationed in Hong Kong and the major cities in mainland China.
When choosing new recruits, KPMG employs comprehensive selection criteria. While professionalism is essential, a candidate's capability to comply with the firm's culture is also emphasised, says Mr Li. "We hope to establish a long-term professional relationship with every recruit for the benefit of all concerned," he supplements. "We try our best to minimise mismatch of skills and values between staff and the management. So from our side, we assess a candidate to see if he or she can be integrated into the 'KPMG way' of doing things. To help candidates learn beforehand about us and our values, we organise recruitment seminars from time to time to provide background information about KPMG for jobseekers."
KPMG is now focussing on the China market and looking for talented individuals to join its growing China practice. The three main streams open for new graduates are respectively audit, tax and advisory. Recognising the significance of budding talents, KPMG allocates significant resources to staff training, specially in nurturing the newly-joined.
To name a few of its development programmes, START is a six-week integration programme for graduate recruits. Under the programme, a series of training sessions provides the comprehensive business, technical and team working skills necessary for recruits to perform their work effectively and confidently. Besides, each recruit is assigned a "partner" to whom he or she can turn for advice, direction and support. This one-to-one staff-partner relationship gives recruits direct access to KPMG's highest level of management. In addition to a partner, recruits are assigned a "buddy" who joined the company just one year earlier. Drawing on his own relatively fresh experience, the buddy helps the new recruit settle in by providing day-to-day advice and guidance.
Professional qualifications are the principal requirement for becoming an accounting professional. KPMG provides staff with the necessary support to pass the required examinations, ranging from textbooks and reference materials to training courses, seminars on examination techniques and even mock exams. All these are supplemental to the ongoing on-the-job training.
Those who absorb the training and adapt to the culture enjoy the chance of personal and professional growth with the firm. "We want our staff to grow with us, on both a personal and professional basis," says Mr Li. "To give just one example of the opportunities they may be offered, staff members could get the chance of being seconded to an overseas posting with one of our international member firms. Such a secondment will broaden a young practitioner's experience and skills."
There is a variety of promising career paths within the firm. After gaining sufficient experience, a relatively fresh graduate can work his or her way up to increasingly important positions. From accountant, they can rise to assistant manager, manager, senior manager, and eventually, partner. "It is possible that a fresh graduate could scale the ranks to become a partner within 10 years," notes Mr Li.