The year 2020 is a highly unusual one for Ernest Wong to take up the role of chairman of ACCA Hong Kong. It is a year in which the Covid-19 pandemic has created disruptions and Hong Kong’s economic outlook remains uncertain.
‘As chairman this year, I hope to lead ACCA to turn crises into opportunities with Hong Kong in its 70th year,’ Wong says. ‘We’ve been committing to supporting our members’ continuing professional development [CPD], which we’ve moved online, and adhering to our digital initiative. The new normal now requires us to enrich our knowledge about technology.’
Due to social distancing, not only were events to celebrate ACCA Hong Kong’s 70th anniversary put on hold, but also auditors’ onsite visits. Wong understands well the challenges his fellow accounting professionals are facing during the pandemic.
Different way of working
‘SMPs have found it difficult to have enough resources to continue their work in mainland China. Those business accountants who work in-house face issues with the company’s cash flow or accounts receivable,’ he explains. ‘Direct interaction is limited. The pandemic has completely changed the way we work.’
We hope to continue our support to employers, business leaders and the general public, while meeting our members’ needs
But the hopeful chairman sees a silver lining. Many accounting and finance professionals have quickly adapted to and adopted new technologies. They are getting more used to remote working and online meetings, which actually enhances efficiency and reduces costs.
‘I see that our members have improved their digital skills and knowledge. Not only do they have the knowledge to use new technologies, but also stronger initiatives to learn about them,’ Wong says, calling it an example of how members are turning crises into opportunities.
Digital capacity and initiatives will continue to be a key area of focus, he says. Under his leadership, the organisation will commit to provide resources to support professional development of members in the era of accelerated digital transformation.
A long-term member of ACCA, Wong has witnessed how the organisation is always evolving to meet the needs of the accounting profession. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, ACCA has moved CPD resources online and conveyed the industry’s view to Hong Kong regulators to help members overcome financial reporting challenges created by the pandemic.
‘We hope to continue our support to employers, business leaders and the general public, while meeting our members’ needs,’ Wong says.
The ‘3 Is’ – inclusion, integrity and innovation – that ACCA has been advocating will be the key to addressing the challenges, Wong believes. ACCA’s inclusive, global network will continue to support members with intelligence and resources.
It’s important to comfort your colleagues and give them confidence to relieve their stress. This will ensure they remain committed to their duties
An emphasis on integrity will remind members to reflect on their social responsibilities, and a commitment to innovation will encourage them to explore creative solutions to face current and future challenges.
He believes accounting professionals can play a part in the road to recovery from Covid-19. ‘They can act and respond in a sustainable manner, analyse the different information sources to secure the organisation, and plan out different scenarios and anticipate the future business impact and trends in order to plan recovery steps and future strategy.’
Outside of ACCA, Wong is the president and group CFO of KVB Holdings, a financial services conglomerate. While technical and digital knowledge are crucial, the pandemic has also made him realise the importance of having an empathic leader and business partner in these chaotic times.
‘I’ve spent a lot of time on communication and people management,’ Wong says, explaining how CFOs can cope with the pandemic. ‘It is important to care about your colleagues and your customers and business partners. Show your support to your colleagues who may not find remote working convenient and take the initiative to contact customers and business partners to understand their needs and see how you can help.
‘It’s important to comfort your colleagues and give them confidence to relieve their stress. This will ensure they remain committed to their duties,’ he explains.
Over the past 30 years, Wong has worked his way up to CFO. While the ACCA Qualification helped him get recognised, being a CFA Charterholder was the entry ticket to investment management.
‘Once you’re in a senior position, you need financial knowledge as well as accounting, especially about corporate finance to know how to do fundraising,’ he explains. ‘Different qualifications certainly help your financial career.’
My advice to those who are considering voluntary work is to stay committed and keep integrity in mind
Personally, his curiosity and strong commitment to integrity have also helped him make strides in his financial career.
‘I’m a curious person who likes to read and learn,’ Wong says. Besides his financial training, he has just finished an Executive Master’s degree from Oxford university, just because he found an interest in the subject.
His personality and curiosity have naturally exposed him to lots of different industries, through holding voluntary positions and being an independent non-executive director in various listed companies. ‘While I contribute my accounting expertise, I also get to learn about different industries, which broadens my horizons and expands my network,’ Wong explains.
‘My advice to those who are considering voluntary work is to stay committed and keep integrity in mind. Ask yourself if you’re available, capable and willing before you take on a role. You need to devote time and effort, and cannot neglect your duties or just look for the titles. If you neglect your integrity, you’ll leave a bad impression on your peers that will hurt your career or even your life in the long run.’
Looking back through the course of his financial career, Wong says the accounting training he received at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) and his ACCA Qualification have helped pave his way to success. To reciprocate, he acted as President of HKU Graduate Association and is now the deputy chairman of HKU Convocation, court member of HKU and chairman of ACCA Hong Kong.
Having great affection for both organisations, Wong is happy to see the recent establishment of a Master in Accounting programme at HKU in collaboration with ACCA.
Now a mentor and leader to his fellows, Wong believes personal development is just as important as teamwork for accounting and finance professionals.
Away from the office, golf has also contributed to his self-improvement. ‘Through this sport I’ve learned how to stay focused to achieve the best performance,’ he says. ‘A previous bad shot should not affect the next. Learn how to get over the bad shot and cheer yourself up to strive for the best next.’