Poised for partnership

by Martin Williams

David McCann, HR partner
China and Hong Kong, PricewaterhouseCoopers
Photo: Wallace Chan

Global audit firm ready to embrace international growth opportunities

When business booms balance sheets burst with data which needs to be deciphered, analysed and collated. One company which is currently riding on the crest of the audit wave envisaged this economic surge and is the ally of choice for several superlative clients.

"We're in a good position right now because Hong Kong's economy is strong and robust," says David McCann, HR partner, China and Hong Kong, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). According to Mr McCann, regional economic strength has led to substantial growth opportunities for PwC and as a result, the demand for auditors is soaring, especially for advisors and tax specialists.

To source the right people, PwC is recruiting within Hong Kong and China, as well as seeking talented Chinese nationals residing overseas. Mr McCann explains that managers now working on this "China sourcing initiative" are located as far a field as London, New York, Los Angeles and Sydney. "They take the initiative and visit companies to liaise with people who are perhaps unaware of the status quo in Hong Kong," he reveals.

When seeking potential candidates, PwC looks beyond the accountancy discipline towards graduates from an array of faculties. According to Mr McCann who majored in philosophy, engineers and scientists make excellent accountants, as do many people who join from other industries, including former police who often specialise in forensic accountancy.

To thoroughly assess candidates, Mr McCann looks for well-developed interpersonal skills. "In Hong Kong, people from the top universities are incredibly bright, so intellectual factors are a given," he notes. "However, we also look for people who have a solid teamwork record, demonstrable creativity, innovative ideas and problem solving capabilities," he notes.

Sound judgement is also a pre-requisite since impractical creativity rarely works. Candidates also need effective communication skills and the ability to build lasting relationships. "The likeability factor is important," stresses Mr McCann.

Strong reputation

Regarding the competitive nature of the current employment market in Hong Kong, Mr McCann is optimistic about PwC's track record and future prospects for employees: "We're the number one firm — reputation counts a lot," he says. "The fundamental difference is the superiority of our client base. Having great clients ensures staff profit from tremendous learning opportunities."

Mr McCann also emphasises the world-class PwC training facilities, which include a new training venue close to completion in Kwun Tong. The centre doubles up as an IT hub, facilitating both e-learning and classroom training to maximise staff learning outcomes.

Once initial training is completed, employees are encouraged to venture overseas for two- to three-year secondments, mainly in the US, the UK, Australia and Canada. "Our people return enriched, both professionally and personally," says Mr McCann, adding that their improved confidence levels are immediately visible. This is essential to maintaining the company's unique professional culture. Mr McCann stresses, "We hold personal development in high regard and everyone who joins benefits from a specific personal development plan."

Indeed, regarding personal development, PwC offers employees a flexible career path, and although not mandatory, several people choose to spend time in the firm's China office to add value to their portfolio in a region where all areas of business anticipate considerable growth in the near future.

On top of the training and career opportunities, the firm strives to create a professional yet fun environment. A "We care" committee was established four years ago to organise a range of activities including outings, complementary movie nights and family visits to Disneyland. The annual PwC cup, where teams from the firm's 12 China offices compete in sports events like basketball and football is also a major hit.

New perspectives

Industrially, Mr McCann notes particular growth in consulting areas of the business within the advisory business group. These advisors work in areas including financial due diligence, such as when companies merge or acquire other firms, as well as refinancing, restructuring, and facilitating IPOs.

Though it is easy to assume accountants pore over columns of figures, Mr McCann says they move quickly beyond the numbers which are the tools of the trade. "We're business advisors, rather than number crunchers," he says. “ We discuss business risk, competition and market trends with clients; and assess any bad debt and check the health of balance sheets". he explains.

"The most rewarding part of our profession is seeing both our clients and our people succeed. We work together on strategies for success," says Mr McCann. "Essentially, we're in partnership with both our clients and our people. We have the best people working with the best clients which makes PwC a great place to be."


Taken from Career Times 25 April 2008
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