Elise Mak, journalist

ACCA Hong Kong’s chair, Jennifer Tan FCCA, promises members continuous support in the post-Covid era.

‘As the previous chairman said, there are opportunities amid crises,’ Tan says. ‘As chairwoman in these unusual times, I will take up the challenge and continue our tradition of supporting our members.’

She emphasises sustainable and strong support for continuing professional development. Despite social distancing restrictions over the past two years, ACCA Hong Kong has stayed committed to serving its members by moving training, events and seminars online.

‘The support never stopped; it just took on a new form,’ she says.

The well-received virtual career fair, for example, linked ACCA members with employers. The virtual celebration for the organisation’s 70th anniversary offered members a chance to connect. Online surveys were conducted to better understand the challenges members were facing.

‘Most important is that we helped members stay competitive in challenging times,’ Tan says. She also vows to support partners and the accounting industry in striving for sustainable success in the new normal.

‘The Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and geopolitics have posed challenges to us, but in every crisis lies an opportunity’

Competitive edge

A member of ACCA Hong Kong for three decades, Tan demonstrates how finance professionals can achieve sustainable success across a wide range of stakeholders in changing times.

Calling herself ‘a typical accountant’, Tan started as an auditor after training in accounting in the 1980s, then became an in-house accountant and worked her way up to CFO. In 2017, she took a step forward to drive changes in fintech as Alipay’s CEO.

Tan believes that finance professionals’ number-crunching skills give them a competitive edge in the digital age. They can better grasp information for analysis and facilitate the company’s operation and decision-making.

‘We need to understand our roles and upskill ourselves,’ she explains. ‘Accountants now need to learn how to use technology to do data analysis. Besides being a keen market observer, they need to have a mindset of continuous learning as there are many new changes.’

Digital switch

The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people work and live. Businesses went online, and mobile payment became an indispensable part of everyday life.

‘Finance professionals are the ones that push companies to make changes and set strategies to ensure ESG compliance’

Tan noticed that those successful in going digital were often large corporations that had resources to support the transformation. Small and medium-sized enterprises were often left out.

Under Tan, Alipay quickly responded to the market’s needs. The fintech pioneer partnered with the most popular dining guide platform serving numerous restaurant vendors. It also enabled charity donation and crossborder remittance on its mobile payment platform to serve a wider audience.

The company even developed two modes of QR code payment to cater to big and small businesses. It enabled financial inclusion and ensured sustainable success for all businesses.

Alipay’s success was made possible by finance professionals like Tan, who were quick to adopt technology to cope with changes.

Continuous support

Over the years, ACCA Hong Kong has helped members tap the opportunities in the Greater Bay Area by providing continuous support, organising crossborder conferences to foster exchange and offering online training to allow for flexible learning.

To help members advance further, Tan has laid out plans for her tenure.

Members of Gen Z, a growing demographic, will be her focus.

‘We need to understand their needs and mindset to cater to this group,’ Tan says. ‘These young members care about their career development, and they are used to online learning. With our existing online platform, we can do more for them.’

With her success in fintech, Tan says helping members to embark on digital transformation is another key task. Digital literacy, she points out, is essential for finance professionals at all levels.

‘We offer training and certificates to members to equip them with a tech-savvy mindset,’ Tan says, adding that the organisation’s extensive network gives members opportunities to unleash their potential and become change drivers.

ACCA Hong Kong also emphasises ethics and integrity, which prompts members to prioritise sustainability when doing business.

‘Now that environmental and social governance reporting has become mandatory in Hong Kong, finance professionals are the ones that push companies to make changes and set strategies to ensure ESG compliance,’ Tan says.

Besides the annual Global Ethics Day, Tan reveals that the group will publish a report in collaboration with the CFA Institute on creating an ethical framework with ESG. The report aims to teach finance professionals to analyse to what extent companies are adopting ESG to assess investment opportunities.

Staying resilient

A member of ACCA since 1988, Tan says the organisation has helped her acquire multidisciplinary knowledge to make her a well-rounded individual. The worldwide recognition of ACCA qualifications has also given her opportunities to move forward.

‘I want to give back to ACCA as it means a lot to my career. It has helped me keep improving,’ she says.

‘Being chosen as the new chairwoman is a recognition of my capability,’ she adds. ‘The Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and geopolitics have posed challenges to us, but in every crisis lies an opportunity. I hope to improve our members’ competitiveness in the long run.’

Hong Kong, an externally oriented economy, has been agile and resilient when various challenges arise. Tan believes members from the special administrative region share the same qualities.

‘Our members have a global vision and an open mind to adapt to different cultural settings,’ she says.

And such agility is reflected in ACCA Hong Kong’s annual Community Day. Due to social distancing, this year the organisation hosted the traditional rickshaw race online. The creative event was well-received among the members.

‘ACCA is a big family and I want to grow together with everyone,’ Tan says. ‘It is a professional organisation with a long history. Welcoming new blood will make us stronger together.’