For forward-looking companies and those facing cash-flow difficulties, seeking expert advice and assistance from experienced and knowledgeable accounting and legal professionals is a must.
Restructuring professionals generally focus on rescuing companies in dire situations, but increasingly they are also providing solutions to companies that are just under-performing in the industry and to those that are continuously looking to improve operational efficiency and profitability. There are presently no specific licensing or registration requirements for structuring professionals in Hong Kong, but in nearly all instances they are registered and certified public accountants.
For Jannie Wong, partner, Financial Advisory Services, KPMG, helping companies solve problems has always been a rewarding and challenging part of her career, and one of the reasons why she has stayed with the company for more than 20 years. She started her career with KPMG in the mid-80s as an audit assistant, immediately after obtaining her professional diploma in accountancy at the Hong Kong Polytechnic in 1986. Eager to learn and full of energy, she progressed within the audit department from junior to senior auditor. Further promotions to supervisor and senior manager followed. In October 2001 she was offered partnership.
Having gained extensive audit experience over the previous 12 years, Ms Wong was at that point given an opportunity to shift her focus to advisory services in restructuring and exit strategy, which she inwardly deliberated profusely. Not long after, she was offered a chance to move to Guangzhou to start, develop and oversee KPMG's restructuring services in China. She currently has a full-time 16-staff team in China (there are offices in Guangzhou and one each in Beijing and Qingdao), and she is constantly looking for suitable candidates for those offices.
Looking back, Ms Wong reflects that the firm, and the industry in general, seek candidates who are not just smart but also determined and fully committed to their companies and their jobs, as these are usually the employees who succeed and experience the most job satisfaction. Invariably, only the determined and the committed will make it to the top.
"My advice for someone wanting to enter the financial advisory profession is to have a solid knowledge of accounting. Working for some years in auditing is advisable. Fresh graduates will be given the opportunity to learn to grasp the basics of reading companies' accounts, obtain industry exposure and acquire the right technical and other skills to be really well-rounded, before advancing into the advisory field," Ms Wong explains.
She stresses that it is inevitable that potential candidates will have to tread the China market. Accordingly, the ability to read Chinese and speak fluent Mandarin is a prerequisite. This is apart from the usual requirement of having excellent written and spoken English. "Last but not least, they must possess strong client-meeting and communication skills, as this is a people-oriented business."
Much of Ms Wong's workday consists of meeting existing clients, building relationships with potential new clients and overseeing, mentoring and training her staff. "KPMG is very competitive when it comes to salary and work-life balance and bonus packages. We realise that our staff is the firm's most valuable asset, so we offer a range of training programmes, sports and fun days, family days, Ocean Park experiences, yoga, wine tasting in China and more. However, given that each of our individual offices are working on their own initiatives, some of which are good to apply in our offices nationwide, we have recently rolled out a 'myLife' programme, aiming to provide a structured approach to enable all of our more than 5,500 staff in 10 cities across China to properly manage their work-life balance. This is an initiative that KPMG believes shows its commitment to its employees," she proudly concludes.