Globalisation and the rapid development of financial and capital markets are fuelling the need of local companies to recruit highly qualified accountants to take charge of the financial side of their businesses. Mark Fong, president and fellow member of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA), has the inside story.
After obtaining a bachelor's degree in engineering and a master's degree in biomechanics in the UK, Mr Fong was keen to return to Hong Kong to begin his career. Soon after his arrival in 1973, however, he realised that Hong Kong's economy was becoming increasingly complex as it evolved from its manufacturing base. It became clear that he would have to equip himself with broader and more comprehensive financial knowledge.
"Any economic activity requires a level of accounting knowledge," Mr Fong says. "Hong Kong's stability and prosperity depends on continuously vibrant and healthy business activities, which in turn require the strong support and services of the accounting profession." Aspiring to a successful career in his field, Mr Fong returned to the UK to pursue a qualification in accounting.
Attaining an accounting qualification, Mr Fong emphasises, was the first important step in the right direction for him to begin a promising career in the accountancy profession. "Anyone interested in finance and related work should get a top-tier accounting qualification from a recognised professional body such as the HKICPA," he advises. "It opens up a whole new genre for career development, and ensures your acquisition of the right knowledge, skills and values to be a successful CPA and to excel in any business."
"It's the diversity of the job that makes it interesting and challenging"
Climbing the ladder
Following his second homecoming in the late 70s, Mr Fong became a member of the Hong Kong Society of Accountants. He started his career as a manager at a large local CPA firm and rose through rapidly the ranks. He opened his own CPA firm in 1981. A year later, his company became an affiliate of Moores Rowland.
Recently, he joined hands with Grant Thornton, the international network of CPA firms, by combining businesses with the renowned player.
Since 1998, Mr Fong has served HKICPA as council member, vice president, and now president. He regularly represents the institute and the profession in discussions with fellow accountants and students on related issues. He also serves as chairman, deputy chairman and member on several of the institute's committees and working groups. Apart from his work for the institute, he also has a hectic work schedule at the firm. With so much to do, Mr Fong's schedule varies daily. "There are no routines," he says. "It's the diversity of the job that makes it interesting and challenging."
In 2004, the institute initiated a re-branding campaign and changed its name to The Hong Kong Institute of CPAs to better communicate the values of its brand and provide members with expanded markets and global opportunities to increase their knowledge and to practise their profession. As the only statutory body of accountants in Hong Kong, the HKICPA is responsible for registering, training, standard setting, developing and regulating the profession locally.
It is responsible for nurturing professionals who are not only equipped with technical skills, but also with sound judgement, high-level leadership and communication skills.
Stimulation and challenge
Mr Fong believes that a career in accounting offers a lot. "Being an accountant involves more than just mundane work, crunching numbers and keeping records," he stresses. "It's about professionalism, integrity, quality and thought leadership." It entails stimulating and challenging work, and there is always something new to learn. "Perhaps the most important aspect is to learn how various businesses work," he notes. Whether the economy is good or bad, accountants are assured of job security and exposure to all types of industries.
To be successful in the accounting profession, a candidate needs technical skills and emotional intelligence, according to Mr Fong. "Qualified accountants must be able to think both objectively and logically in order to give sound financial advice on a professional level," he explains. "The ability to build trust and communicate with people is extremely important. Having an open mind with a bit of charisma also helps."
As Hong Kong's market economy continues to thrive, qualified accountants who can lead a team, and are able to work with high-level executives, communicate and present their ideas well, and understand the essential needs of a business are assets to any company or client they serve.
"Whether you want to work as a professional accountant in business or practise, starting your career in a CPA firm is a very good choice and you'll definitely benefit from the exposure and experience you gain, whatever your aspirations," Mr Fong adds.