Across a diverse career path encompassing both finance and education, Vincent Tam has learned a lot about the power of transformation. And in his latest role, as chief adviser to education technology (EdTech) startup Relearn Education, he is putting everything he has learned so far into practice.
Based in Hong Kong, Relearn Education aims to provide an enhanced hybrid learning experience with self-developed immersive virtual reality (VR) educational solutions for both remote and face-to-face learners, especially students from primary and secondary schools.
‘I have to be flexible, open to learning and comfortable with ambiguity’
‘Local schools can have more feasible hybrid learning solutions that engage students more effectively through gamified and immersive VR content,’ says Tam, who is responsible for Relearn Education’s overall strategic planning and execution, identifying and evaluating new growth opportunities for business development and expansion, and recommending operational changes to enhance project management and delivery.
Challenging and demanding
Start-ups face uncertainty and rapid change, so working in this fast-moving landscape can be both challenging and rewarding, Tam says.
‘We operate in a dynamic environment where market trends, technologies and customer preferences can change rapidly. Adapting to these changes and staying ahead of the curve can be challenging,’ he says. ‘I have to be flexible, open to learning and comfortable with ambiguity.’
This means that whole team wear multiple hats, taking on diverse responsibilities while working with limited budgets. It requires creativity and resourcefulness to achieve goals efficiently while managing constraints and, in this, Tam’s accountancy background is essential.
‘Navigating the detour from banking to corporate allowed me to take full advantage of my transferable skills’
‘Start-ups require careful financial management to ensure their success. My accounting background can help effectively track income, expenses and profitability to make informed decisions about resource allocation, pricing and investments,’ he says, adding that demonstrating his understanding of key metrics and the financial viability of the business with potential investors, including venture capitalists, is essential.
Ability to pivot
Tam’s career trajectory defies convention, demonstrating his ability to pivot. Although he studied accounting at university, after graduating in the mid-1990s he initially spent a decade in corporate banking, where he honed his skills in syndicated loans, risk assessment and client relations.
It was during his tenure at a Hong Kong listed real estate development conglomerate that Tam’s involvement in accounting deepened and he assumed roles in corporate governance, internal audit and risk management.
‘Navigating the detour from banking to corporate allowed me to take full advantage of my transferable skills and become a well-rounded executive who manages to stay afloat amid changes and challenges,’ Tam says.
‘We need to build powerful advisory capabilities to provide value beyond compliance and traditional accounting’
In 2005, he shifted into the corporate world, spending the next 15 years at a large real estate development conglomerate and its subsidiaries, first managing risk before moving into HR. After moving out of real estate, he remained in HR at a business-focused statutory organisation before joining Relearn Education earlier this year.
For Tam, the greatest challenge for the finance profession is its evolution in the face of emerging technologies and changing business practices. As processes become digitised, challenges lie ahead for accountants, who must develop future-proof skills such as data analysis and advisory capabilities to provide value beyond compliance. Automation, cloud-based solutions and real-time data analysis are, he says, transforming the industry, with artificial intelligence and robotic process automation allowing accountants to focus on higher-value activities.
Relearn Education is an EdTech company that creates customised immersive experiences designed for the specific needs of education, corporate training, and rehabilitation therapy across various industries.
With a strong focus on social innovation, the business fosters inclusivity and provides meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with physical disabilities, specifically those using wheelchairs. Relearn Education empowers these individuals by imparting highly transferable Web 3.0 digital skills through on-the-job training.
‘We need to build powerful advisory capabilities to provide value beyond compliance and traditional accounting,’ he says. ‘These may include effectively analysing data, monitoring trends, recognising opportunities and improving business performance.’
Another focus for accountants is environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, which are moving up the corporate agenda and ‘are becoming an urgent imperative for all businesses to take action on’. Accountants, he adds, must also be mindful of a shifting regulatory landscape and changes around disclosure requirements.
‘I am eternally grateful for the precious opportunities to be a good friend of my mentees’
Passion to nurture
Against this backdrop, Tam’s passion for youth development and higher education is enabling him to help the next generation of finance professionals prepare to enter this fast-changing environment, as he mentors students through various programmes, sharing real-world experiences and nurturing future leaders.
At the heart of this is Tam’s longstanding commitment to ACCA. This was illustrated recently when Tam coached Vision Consulting, a team from the University of Hong Kong, to victory at the ACCA Business Competition 2022-23, bagging the Champion, Creative Excellence and Digital Excellence Awards . The competition sees seasoned ACCA-qualified professionals acting as coaches for 20 teams as they prepared business proposals that reflected ACCA’s seven capabilities for success: collaboration, drive, digital, insight, ethics, expertise and sustainability. A number of awards are on offer, from Best Proposal and Best Budgeting to Digital Excellence and Research Excellence.
Tam believes that mentoring and coaching has to be a two-way street, best delivered when mentor and mentee go through the process as friends.
‘I am eternally grateful for the thoughtful arrangements made by ACCA and local universities, offering me precious opportunities to be a good friend of my mentees and be able to help them push through the challenges by providing ongoing support and guidance,’ he says,
He adds that it is not only mentees that benefit from mentorship. Mentors like him also gain a lot when they are exposed to new ideas and fresh perspectives from young talent: ‘By better understanding the younger generations who have different priorities and preferences, I can pick up a few tips from them that I may not have otherwise thought about.’