For Magdalene Ang, being accountable to stakeholders lies at the heart of the work of the SMP – and this is something that she understands more than most. Several years into her audit career, the director at R Chan & Associates PAC spent two years working as quality assurance manager at the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA). This, she says, provided her with a ‘third-party’s perspective’ on the work of accounting firms.
‘I got to know more about the challenges that the industry faced, and how some smaller firms struggled with a lack of resources and know-how,’ she says. ‘This experience awakened my consciousness and sparked in me a desire to be more involved in raising up the level of our accounting industry.’
‘My team need to be able to understand the business that the client is in, ask the right questions and articulate concerns’
Director, R Chan & Associates PAC
Director, M&J Consultancy & Training
Quality assurance manager, Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants
Finance manager, ESPN STAR Sports
Audit associate, later promoted to audit manager, Moore Stephens
The starting point of this mission has been in developing the right mindset among her team. ‘I know that many businesses often see auditors and accountants as just around to earn a fee, and this is why I always tell my team to go beyond what the client has given them,’ she explains. ‘They need to be able to understand the business that the client is in, ask the right questions and articulate concerns.’
At the same time, she adds, mutual respect has to be built. ‘We want our clients to know and trust that it is to our advantage to see their business grow.’
Today, Ang leads her team in managing a diverse portfolio of multinational clients. True to the culture of the homegrown firm, which has a heritage stretching back over 40 years, all the founding partners have been retained, while Ang has also managed to maintain a score of zero turnover among her staff over the past seven years.
Ang first came across the firm, which she joined in 2014, during her spell with ISCA. ‘I was impressed that despite being a local SMP, they had a very international outlook – which is realised through its long association with the Morison KSi international network, as a member firm.’
Such challenges have, of course, intensified over the past year. Ang believes, however, that, in many ways, the pandemic has given both the firm and its clients an opportunity to grow together.
‘Especially during the 2020 circuit breaker, many of our clients faced issues meeting filing deadlines due to a lack of IT implementation,’ she says. ‘This was an opportunity for us to help them understand that cloud accounting and digitalisation was more than just about them putting their files on the cloud, but a whole new way of working, in which auditors had direct access into their system.’
At the same time, working from home also gave the team a chance to have a trial run at auditing in a different way. ‘We got to fine-tune our remote working processes, such as document verification, which is helpful not just for Covid-19, but also in servicing our overseas clients,’ she says.
‘Trainers often share materials from the standards, but do not do a good job at tying it back to real-life challenges’
For Ang, the backbone of her practice comes from the ACCA Qualification, which she gained while working as an accounts and audit assistant in a small firm. This enabled her to make the move to Moore Singapore in 2004.
‘It was here that I gained exposure to specific industries such as shipping,’ she recalls. ‘I also learnt about internal audit, IPO listing and reverse takeovers, as well as getting the chance to be exposed to overseas engagements.’
Looking to spend more time with her young family, in 2011 Ang became finance manager at ESPN STAR Sports, before moving to ISCA where, alongside gaining a different perspective of the profession, she developed an interest in improving training provision. This led her to set up M&J Consultancy and Training in 2014.
‘Trainers often share materials from the standards, but do not do a good job at tying it back to real-life challenges,’ she explains.
Ang believes that, as an active practitioner, she can deliver greater insights to her trainees. ‘Precisely because I’m a practitioner, I understand the challenges,’ she says.
Innovate and transform
In addition to giving back to the industry as a trainer, Ang is an ACCA network panel member. She is chair of the practitioners’ transformation subcommittee, helping SMPs to innovate and transform their business in a calibrated manner that is aligned with their firm’s strategic direction. This is executed through programmes such as ACCA’s six-month AccXelerator programme, where firms undergo a structured learning journey that is supported by a pool of industry members.
Ultimately, Ang says, her training and career have also equipped her with vital life skills, enabling her to not take things at face value and go beyond the numbers. ‘Even for my friends who graduated from accountancy and have gone on to pursue other jobs such as recruitment and real estate, they remain thankful to the profession for helping them get to where they are today,’ she adds.