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Healthy Finances

28 July 2022

Hospital Authority Accounting Officer II Kathy Lau takes top honours at the highest level of the QP.

 

Analytical focus

 

Kathy Lau, who has been a Finance Associate for the Hospital Authority (HA) since 2020, is a QP high flyer. In December 2021, she won the Li Fook Shu Memorial Prize, the gold award for the top performer in the HKICPA’s first ever QP Capstone Exam, formerly known as the Final Examination.

 

Kathy studied accounting and finance at The University of Hong Kong. Having first studied the subject in secondary school, she was attracted to accountancy as a profession from an early age.

 

“I’ve always been mathematically inclined. For me it’s very satisfying, being able to work with numbers and balance them. When I was choosing my major, I thought that accounting would be a good career, as every company always needs accountants.”

 

She undertook several internships while she was at university, at a range of companies and organizations: in the Retail Banking Division of Standard Chartered Bank; the leasing department of property developer Hip Shing Hong Development; and at charity platform Charitable Choice.

 

“I took all these different internships because I wanted to acquire more experience,” she says. “The companies I worked for were in different industries and of different sizes. I worked directly with the CEO in Charitable Choice while Standard Chartered was of a much larger scale. I learned a lot, and the internships helped me decide my career path. The main thing I noticed was that management culture is different in different organizations, which helped me figure out the type of company I wanted to work in: one with strong guidelines, great supervisor support and good governance.”

 

She started studying for the QP pretty much as soon as she could, shortly after beginning her job at the HA. “I graduated from an accounting programme and joined my employer in the accounting department, so it was natural for me to want to attain a professional qualification,” she says. “Being based in Hong Kong, I wanted to take the QP because it’s the most relevant to the standards and business environment of Hong Kong”, while also being recognised by various overseas accountancy bodies through mutual reciprocal agreements.

 

The element from the QP course that was most useful immediately for her was module 13 on business assurance, she says. “I learned a bit about the subject in my university programme but it was mainly just calculations. The syllabus of the QP is more complex, more comprehensive and more relevant to the work of an accountant. It’s highly related to what I do at work. At the HA, funding comes from the public treasury, so it’s very important to make sure it is spent where it should be.

 

“Another important focus of the QP course is analytical skills. We were given a lot of case studies, which were all based on real business situations. I learned to think from multiple perspectives, and I also learned how to express ideas clearly in a way that attracts the audience. That’s very applicable at work. I have to present to my boss and propose ideas, and even present to third parties like the government authorities. The QP taught me how to present ideas like that, especially through the workshops.”

 

The open, accommodating nature of the workshops was particularly welcome, she adds. “It’s not a harsh or critical environment. I could freely share my ideas, even if they were different from the rest of the class. The facilitators made it clear that there were no right or wrong answers and they encouraged a range of perspectives.”

 

wc2

Ms. Kathy Lau
Assistant Finance Manager,
Hospital Authority

Capstone conquest

 

Compared to the professional level, the Capstone level of the QP is more about decision-making, she says, teaching students to think not just from a financial perspective but also from a strategic and ethical one.

 

One reason for her outstanding achievement in the QP exam, she adds, was the active role she played in the workshops, so she advises students to speak up as much as possible. She also benefited from taking a creative approach for exam revision.

 

“When I prepared for the exam, I didn’t do a lot of practice papers, but mainly focused on the learning pack. It’s a good way to practise thinking from different perspectives, like in the exam. You don’t want to be a robot and just recite answers; it’s important to focus on analysis.”

 

Kathy started working for the Hospital Authority in 2020, shortly after graduating from university. “I know most of my friends chose to work in the Big Four, but I just wanted to do something different,” she says. “My final year of study was 2020, when COVID-19 emerged, and the healthcare industry was in the news every day. I thought it would be a unique experience to join the HA.”

 

She started as a Finance Associate, on a two-year graduate trainee programme, and she has rotated between different locations and different accounting functions. “I thought at university that accounting would be all about numbers and reports, she says. “In fact, I have had to give presentations, manage staff and come up with a lot of high-level analysis.”

 

Her days as a trainee will be over this year and she will be deployed to Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei as Assistant Finance Manager. The journey is not ended, Kathy believes, and she will continue to grow and learn and face further challenges along with her career development in HA.

 

 

Interview and reporting by Richard Lord

 


 
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