‘We’re here to tell the sto­ries of business’ CPA Aus­tralia ex­ec­u­tive Ivan Au is on an end­less mis­sion. He tells Duan Ting he’ll not wa­ver in striv­ing for global recog­ni­tion for the thou­sands of mem­bers the or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sents.

China Daily (Canada) - - HONG KONG -

Sea­soned ac­coun­tant Ivan Au knows his onions — his pro­fes­sion and do­ing business are cheek by jowl. He has no re­grets about hav­ing changed course be­fore em­bark­ing on his ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion in Aus­tralia, adamant that business still holds great sway in life, un­fazed by the fact that a great num­ber of his fam­ily mem­bers had gone very much in an­other di­rec­tion — the me­dia.

“Ac­count­ing is tied to the num­bers game to re­flect business in a fi­nan­cial way. It’s the lan­guage of business and it tells sto­ries about business,” says Au, di­vi­sional pres­i­dent for Greater China at CPA Aus­tralia — the Mel­bourne-based group that’s one of the world’s largest ac­count­ing bod­ies with more than 160,000 mem­bers from across the globe.

“We’re re­lent­less in our re­solve to win greater recog­ni­tion for our mem­bers around the globe and help them win leadership roles.

“The value of be­ing rec­og­nized as a CPA Aus­tralia mem­ber is that it pro­vides international recog­ni­tion, a plat­form to net­work across dif­fer­ent po­si­tions and in­dus­tries,” he tells China Daily.

CPA Aus­tralia’s in­volve­ment in Asia has been pro­tracted, dat­ing back to the 1950s fol­low­ing its found­ing 131 years ago, with the goal of lend­ing greater im­pe­tus to the ac­count­ing pro­fes­sion in the Asia Pa­cific re­gion. Thus, it’s not obliv­i­ous to the mo­men­tous eco­nomic growth in China over the years that has nudged many Chinese main­land en­ter­prises to “go out”, of­fer­ing great open­ings for the ac­count­ing in­dus­try.

The push has been ac­cen­tu­ated by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s much-hyped Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive that has fur­ther en­cour­aged more main­land com­pa­nies to spread their ten­ta­cles overseas.

“Along with the main­land’s rapid eco­nomic growth, the need for ac­coun­tants has grown in tan­dem. We cer­tainly aim to grow fast and we ex­pect more mem­bers. There are lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties ahead as main­land com­pa­nies con­tinue to go international,” Au stresses.

“The other very fun­da­men­tal value of CPA Aus­tralia is ef­fi­cacy. We cer­tainly value our mem­bers’ ef­fi­cacy in im­por­tant mat­ters, in­clud­ing pol­icy mat­ters af­fect­ing the econ­omy and the pro­fes­sion­als.”

Ac­cord­ing to CPA Aus­tralia’s China Hu­man Cap­i­tal Sur­vey con­ducted in 2015, half of the re­spon­dents reck­oned there’s an acute short­age of skilled ac­count­ing pro­fes­sion­als on the main­land, and the job market for ac­coun­tants there holds great prom­ise.

Those polled be­lieved that the key fac­tors con­tribut­ing to the short­age in­cluded a mis­match in ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ers’ needs, the grow­ing so­phis­ti­ca­tion of lo­cal com­pa­nies, in­creased com­pli­ance re­quire­ments, and more main­land en­ter­prises ex­pand­ing abroad.

“One of the things I do is out­bound in­vest­ment. I help lots of Chinese com­pa­nies in­vest overseas. As a CPA Aus­tralia mem­ber, I’m in a very good po­si­tion to help them with the international recog­ni­tion and global knowl­edge I’ve gar­nered from my mem­ber­ship and be a kind of a bridge be­tween Chinese busi­nesses and their overseas coun­ter­parts,” says Au.

An international qual­i­fi­ca­tion in ac­count­ing, plus ex­ten­sive work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence deal­ing in international cases, will stand out in the race, he be­lieves.

“The CPA pro­gram, be­ing a con­tem­po­rary and in­ter­na­tion­ally rel­e­vant pro­gram, en­sures that our mem­bers are well-equipped to tackle any chal­lenge re­gard­ing ac­count­ing, fi­nance or business in to­day’s global mar­ket­place. Pro­vid­ing them with more than a tech­ni­cal ac­count­ing fo­cus, the pro­gram goes be­yond the num­bers, teach­ing them the skills to help them reach the next level in leadership, strat­egy and business.”

“Knowl­edge and net­work­ing are our strong fo­cuses and we want our mem­bers to be well known for that.”

Au re­calls that, as a CPA Aus­tralia mem­ber, world recog­ni­tion and knowl­edge have given him the am­mu­ni­tion to com­mu­ni­cate with many main­land com­pa­nies con­cern­ing their in­vest­ments overseas.

With 18 years of ac­count­ing and as­sur­ance ex­pe­ri­ence un­der his belt, Au has seen a sea of change in the in­dus­try in terms of the stan­dards and reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment world­wide, such as in tech­nol­ogy — a sec­tor in which the Chinese main­land has surged ahead with enor­mous speed.

“We’ve seen de­struc­tive changes brought about by tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­ligence and big data, in the fi­nance and ac­count­ing sec­tors,” he says.

“In our in­dus­try, lots of peo­ple are talk­ing about ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­ligence and big data. How to make use of tech­nol­ogy and make ac­count­ing ef­fi­cient and more trans­for­ma­tional is im­por­tant to com­pa­nies. The very fun­da­men­tal value of ac­count­ing re­volves around use­ful in­for­ma­tion, which means the in­for­ma­tion is rel­e­vant, re­li­able, ac­cu­rate and timely.”

CPA Aus­tralia has also been ac­tively pro­mot­ing tech­nol­ogy within the or­ga­ni­za­tion to al­low its mem­bers to gather the knowl­edge any­time, any­where.

It has an on­line learn­ing plat­form called “My On­line Learn­ing”, which al­lows mem­bers to up­date their skills and help them study the CPA pro­gram.

Ac­cord­ing to Au, when CPA Aus­tralia started off in 1886 in Aus­tralia, it had only 45 mem­bers. It has since turned into one of the world’s largest pro­fes­sional ac­count­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions that now boasts hav­ing more than 160,000 mem­bers work­ing in 118 coun­tries and re­gions, 25,000 of them in se­nior leadership roles.

The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment launched the Colombo Plan in the 1950s — a bold ini­tia­tive de­signed to strengthen the coun­try’s ties with Asia. It pro­vided op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents in Hong Kong to travel to Aus­tralia to study ac­count­ing. “Many of them have since re­turned to Hong Kong and be­come fore­fa­thers in sup­port­ing and ex­pand­ing their ac­count­ing pro­fes­sion in Hong Kong.”

CPA Aus­tralia (formerly known as the Aus­tralian So­ci­ety of Ac­coun­tants, or ASA) sup­ported the plan and ac­tively en­cour­aged re­turn­ing grad­u­ates to be­come mem­bers of CPA Aus­tralia so they could main­tain their links with Aus­tralia.

De­mand to ob­tain Aus­tralian CPA des­ig­na­tion has grown steadily in the past six decades and, in 1955, a lo­cal Com­mit­tee of Advice and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive were ap­pointed. Their Hong Kong of­fice was for­mally set up in 1990 and the num­ber of mem­bers has ex­panded sig­nif­i­cantly since.

“In the old days, a lot of our mem­bers were in the tra­di­tional in­dus­tries, but now they’re from a broader spread, in­clud­ing the tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tive sec­tors. And, they’re not just ac­coun­tants, but also business lead­ers and CEOs in man­age­ment roles,” says Au.

CPA Aus­tralia has been run­ning its first rep­re­sen­ta­tive of­fice in Bei­jing since 2002. To strengthen its com­mit­ment and co­op­er­a­tion with the ac­coun­tancy pro­fes­sion on the main­land, the or­ga­ni­za­tion opened of­fices in Shang­hai and Guangzhou in 2006 and 2012, re­spec­tively, and set up a li­ai­son of­fice in Ma­cao in 2007.

Cur­rently, the group has more than 17,000 mem­bers in China, with 12,000 in Hong Kong and 5,000 on the main­land.

“Ac­coun­tants need to be all­rounded rather than be­ing too spe­cial­ized in one thing, and be able to see the big pic­ture. They need to have strong an­a­lyt­i­cal skills and em­brace tech­nol­ogy, such as in big data, the right way.”

Con­tact the writer at tingduan@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

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