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Jack of all trades

27 October 2021

William Cheung is a one-man demonstration of the range of roles QP can lead to.

 

Broad focus

 

No one could rest on his laurels says William Cheung. An accountant who likes to gain a range of experience and take up fresh challenges, in the past eight years he has worked in four different roles for four different types of company.

 

“I don’t really like playing the same role for many years,” he says. “It makes me feel like a robot. I get bored easily, and I pick things up fast. And I really want to build up my profile, and get into as many industries and roles as I can.”

 

He has been busy since he graduated in 2013 from The University of Hong Kong, where he studied accounting and finance. He joined KPMG as an auditor immediately after graduation, mainly working for manufacturing and property development clients of both listed and private companies.

 

“For any business student in Hong Kong, working at a Big Four firm is one of the most popular options,” he says. “If you enter the auditing industry, you get a lot of chances to look at different industries before you decide which you would like to focus on. And you’re not just looking at their financial statements – you’re talking to their CFOs and those with senior positions, and finding out all about the companies. I was lucky at KPMG – I got to work with a lot of different listed companies. It was tough, but I was glad that I had a really good team of managers; we worked really well together and we also hung out together outside work.”

 

He studied for the QP while working at KPMG, taking advantage of the assistance the firm offered to young accountants studying for the qualification.

 

“The QP is very comprehensive – as well as auditing, you get to know all the fundamental finance stuff, including accounting, taxation and corporate finance,” he says. “It is recognized worldwide; the Institute has established mutual recognition agreements with a number of overseas accounting bodies, so you can be eligible for qualification exemption if you want to work in other countries.”

 

wc2

Mr. William Cheung
Asia Regional Finance Manager
Warner Music

Foray into finance

 

After three and a half years at KPMG, during which he was promoted to assistant manager, he decided to look for something new. “I found that I started to like the non-numerical aspects of my job, such as writing reports and analysing data for my clients. That led me to my next job.”

 

That was a group finance role for retail giant AS Watson, with a focus on Eastern Europe and the Benelux countries. “It was all about financial analysis,” he says. “It’s a big group, and it was expanding fast, so there were a lot of investment proposals.”

 

He says the communication skills he learned as an auditor were useful in his new job, as were many of the technical skills. “As an auditor you learn how to read financial statements really, really well, so if you see something wrong in a financial model, you can discover the problem.”

 

“The job”, he adds, “was a really good opportunity to go from an auditing mindset to a business one”. However, the size of the company’s accounting and finance operations made him felt like he was only taking care of a very small part of any project.

  

This prompted him to move to a smaller company, garment manufacturer TAL, as a finance manager, overseeing a network of 10 factories spread across several Southeast Asian countries and Ethiopia. “I moved because I wanted to do something more, and the role of a finance manager sounded interesting. It turned out it was – there was a lot to do.” That was because his move to the company coincided with the start of the US-China trade war, forcing the company to relocate a lot of its production, and the pandemic outbreak started. He also moved from a finance department of 80 people to one of four only, meaning his wish for a more all-round role was fulfilled, perhaps rather more than he’d have ideally liked. “My two years there has felt like 10 years,” he says.

 

He recently moved into yet another new sector, joining Warner Music in a regional role, dealing with affiliate countries in 11 markets around Asia.

 

“Again, a very different industry – I thought it was time for me to do something new,” he says. “I like the culture of my new company. Manufacturing is very traditional, but the culture of the music industry is very creative.”

 

Part of the motivation for the move, he says, came from a desire to round out his skills. “I have been a qualified CPA for a few years and mainly focusing on business and financial analysis in commercial firms. My new role offers me the chance to solidify my financial accounting skills which is perfect for me to continue shaping a comprehensive background as an all rounded accountant.”

 

Judging from William’s past experience, that move will probably happen fairly soon – and could be in almost any industry.

 

Interview and reporting by Richard Lord

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