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Beyond Numbers

01 January 2019

Lanco Leung’s job as an internal auditor at Swire allows her to help to improve all aspects of the business.

 

Top Marks

 

“It was always my plan to have a career in accountancy,” says Lanco Leung, senior internal auditor for Swire Group. “I think accountancy is one of the most diverse careers. Companies and organizations always need accountants. And you don’t just deal with numbers; you have to understand all aspects of the business. So I felt like I would never be bored.”

 

As a result she majored in accountancy in her Bachelor of Business Administration studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and then studied for the Institute's Qualification Programme (QP) after she started her first job, as an external auditor. About the CPA Name: Miss Lanco Leung Job title: Senior Internal Auditor Swire Group

 

“The QP doesn’t just equip you with technical knowledge; it also gives you all the skills that you need to be a CPA,” she says. “The workshops simulate real-life working situations, and you have a chance to work together to solve problems. You learn about communication skills, leadership and working together – all these are essential skills that you need in your working life.”

 

Leung was a particularly successful QP student; winning the Gold Award Prize for the highest marks in the final exam. While hard work is important, she says, even more important is contextual understanding.

 

“You have to integrate different areas of the study materials in your mind – understand the logic behind them and in what circumstances they can be applied. It’s not your knowledge of accounting standards they want to test – that’s why it’s an open-book exam – it’s your understanding of how to apply them, and you can’t to do that without understanding the theories behind them.”

 

Lanco-Leung

Miss Lanco Leung
Senior Internal Auditor Swire Group

 

Varied Role

 

After three years working in Big Four firms, she moved into the commercial sector, joining conglomerate Swire Group, which has holdings in areas including property, airlines, shipping, retail, and food and beverage; initially as an internal auditor, in January 2018 she was promoted to senior internal auditor. “I wanted to know more about the business world, and I saw an opportunity to expand my exposure. In my role, I can get a detailed understanding of all Swire’s business,” she says. “And as Swire has business all over the world, I can travel to see how people do things differently.”

Her role at Swire Group includes designing the annual internal audit plan; reviewing risk-based audit work by her colleagues in the company’s various divisions; presenting audit findings to business unit heads; communicating regularly with senior management regarding internal audit, risk management and corporate governance; training her colleagues on risk management and internal controls; preparing reports for the audit committee; and handling complaints from whistleblowers and investigating potential fraud.

“This job gives me a very high level of satisfaction,” she says. “I provide recommendations to management after the audit, and I can see the company becoming more efficient as a result: reducing costs, but also preventing accidents, for example.”

The move from external to internal audit meant a switch of emphasis in her work. She had to educate herself pretty quickly when she joined Swire on the various business areas in which it operates. “I had to change my mindset from financial figures to the risks in a company’s processes. But the communication skills, persuasion skills and presentation skills I gained from external audit can be applied to internal audit.

“But the biggest challenge is that I’ve had to learn new things very quickly, especially when I first started. I found the learning curve was very steep, and I had to do a lot of homework; it was like starting a new job every month. And the economic, regulatory, political and business environments change very quickly.”

In her spare time Leung has studied for the Institute of Internal Auditors’ Certification in Risk Management Assurance and Certified Internal Auditor qualifications, passing both this year. She says that a commitment to continuous professional development is an important part of what makes a good accountant.

“It complements my knowledge gained from the work environment. It’s very important because the world is fast-paced and dynamic, and we need to keep ourselves updated in all aspects of the business. People expect us to know more than just CPA knowledge; they expect us to make an all-round contribution.

“A good auditor needs to be curious and observant. Some people might think we just look at documents, but no: you have to walk around the company and ask questions – that’s how you identify room for improvement and add value.”

Interview and reporting by Richard Lord

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