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Auditing the auditors

10 January 2020

Formerly an auditor herself, Lau Tin Wing, associate director at the Financial Reporting Council, now works in an independent statutory body that ensures accounting professionals do their jobs properly

Excelling in QP exams

 

Lau Tin Wing is helping to keep professional standards in Hong Kong’s accounting and auditing industry at the highest possible level. An associate director of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), the independent statutory body that regulates the auditors of listed entities in Hong Kong, she started her career as an auditor herself, for KPMG, before joining the Big Four firm’s department of professional practice.

 

“I’ve been interested in numbers since I was very small, and in year two at university I decided to pursue accountancy as a career,” she says. “It’s the discipline that drives all businesses; financial reporting tells the story of how a business is performing. I also wanted to be a professional.”

 

Before becoming an accountant, Lau studied at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she majored in communication studies, with a minor in accountancy. Returning to Hong Kong in 2007, she joined KPMG as an auditor, a job that she says was filled with opportunities, including the extensive experiences she gained in mainland China, with assignments in Beijing, Shijiazhuang, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, etc.

 

“Although the hours were not short, I had a lot of fun working with clients and audit seniors, and I learned a lot,” she says. “I was also lucky to have the chance to grow from an auditor associate to an audit manager.”

 

While working in the role, she was also busy studying for the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Qualification Programme (QP), which she characterises as a key millstone along her professional journey.

 

“Without QP I could not be a professional. It’s a very well rounded programme that enables graduates to have a first glimpse of everything including financial reporting, finance, auditing and taxation. QP helped me become familiar with all of them. It’s very user friendly, and closely related to your daily work as an accountant.”

 

In fact, so well did Lau perform in her QP studies that she finished top of the class, winning the Li Fook Shu Memorial Prize for the highest mark in the December 2009 QP final exam. The key to her success, she says, was making sure she took maximum advantage of the resources available to her.

 

“Although the QP exams are open book, the time constraint is very challenging, so you have to prepare well and be very familiar with the materials. If you’re working in a professional accounting firm, consult your seniors – they all have done the exams in the past. And also remember to relate what you’re learning to your day-to-day work; it can be quite hard to understand the concepts without relating them to the real world.”

 

 

Lau Tin Wing

Miss Lau Tin Wing,
Associate Director, Financial Reporting Council

Raising the quality of financial reporting

After working for three years as an auditor at KPMG, she moved to the firm’s department of professional practice, where her job involved providing recommendations in response to questions from the firm’s auditors, reviewing the audit reports they produced, delivering in-house training and preparing a monthly newsletter about technical issues. She says it took her a while to adjust to having no more direct interactions with clients; the compensation was that her role could be focused on technical matters, with the opportunities it provided for self-improvement. “It meant I was able to brush up my technical knowledge through daily research,” she says. “And, as a former auditor myself, I could understand the difficulties that the auditors were facing.”

 

She left KPMG after two years, taking on a very different role, as an associate director of the FRC, which recently had its remit and powers boosted by the government’s Financial Reporting Council (Amendment) Ordinance 2019. Her role involves working as a complaint handling officer, screening complaints the FRC received; and as a case officer, obtaining and analysing information and identifying auditing irregularities, non-compliance with accounting and auditing standards and /or listing rules, as well as making recommendations for addressing them.

 

She joined the FRC, she says, because of the importance of its role. “I wanted to develop my career in a regulatory body, and I thought that by joining the FRC I could contribute to achieving its mission of upholding the quality of financial reporting of listed entities in Hong Kong thereby safeguarding investor protection. I was able to use the knowledge I had gained at both the auditing and technical departments. The most important attribute for working as a regulator is having good ethics and a high level of integrity, and also having a high level of responsibility.”

 

With a lot riding on her decisions, she describes it as a challenging but rewarding role. “I have to provide analysis on a daily basis, liaise with professional accountants and listed entities and prepare detailed reports of auditing irregularities and non-compliances with accounting requirements, which can be challenging.”

 

Interview and reporting by Richard Lord

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