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Technology transfer

06 April 2020

Lawrence Li of travel booking platform Klook uses his CPA background to navigate the dynamic world of technology start-ups.

Passion for business

 

For Lawrence Li, qualifying as a CPA was a route to the fast moving and ever changing world of technology start-ups – a world that has become increasingly dynamic in Hong Kong over the past few years. Currently the Vertical Planning & Projects Manager of the dynamic travel activities and services booking Klook’s Top Things to Do in Asia Pacific, he was previously a member of the core team involved in setting up the Hong Kong operations of online payment platform Alipay.

 

Li knew he was destined for a business career since early in life, and decided to opt to study for a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting & Finance at The University of Hong Kong. “When I was young, I was quite fascinated about how successful companies are run – how they become successful and innovative,” he says. “It was obvious that I wanted to study business and economics. After talking to my parents and seniors, I realized that accounting is central to businesses’ success and how it helps maximize internal resources.”

 

After graduation he worked in the assurance department of Big Four firm EY for three years. “It was demanding but fruitful. When you work at a company you have the whole year to understand its bookkeeping, but you have to complete an audit in just one to two months. The experience gave me an opportunity to gain insights on how different types of companies run. It also helped develop my skills to understand what the figures represent, as well as giving me experience in handling projects.

 

“My interpersonal skills also improved,” Li claims. “The relationship between auditors and client companies is very interesting- the companies are the clients, but you’re serving all stakeholders of the companies as well. You must learn how to obtain certain information without offending people.”

 

At the same time he decided to obtain the accounting qualification. Once he started studying QP, he says, he got an idea of how comprehensive the professional training was, and how relevant to his work. “At first I thought it would just be another exam I had to pass, but when I started to study it I started to understand the rationale behind the entire QP programme. The programme comprises modules of financial reporting, financial management and auditing, as well as taxation, which are all vital areas for us as accountants to gauge the financial health of a company.”

 

Lawrence Li

Mr. Lawrence Li,
Vertical Planning & Projects Manager,
Klook

Start-up success

 

After three years at EY, Li moved to the commercial sector, joining Alipay Hong Kong as a Senior Business Analyst as it was being established in late 2017. His key roles included budgeting and forecasting, significant project modelling, KPI performance monitoring and reporting to shareholders. “I have audited a lot of successful companies but still felt like there was a missing piece in terms of how start-ups operate,” he says. “I’m passionate and excited about the technology industry. Alipay was planning to start a new app for Hong Kong, and it was a very good opportunity for me to apply what I have learned previously and to try something new.”

 

“The learning curve was very steep. We had to build a financial function, set up a back-end accounting system and perform analysis on projects. Everything was new and challenging, but my accounting knowledge gave me the concept of how everything works. My work involved a lot of trial and error. There was expectation from the shareholders as well – from both of the joint venture’s parent companies, Ant Financial Services Group in Mainland China and, CK Hutchison Holdings in Hong Kong.”

 

In December 2019 he moved to Klook, where his role is more operational, with hands-on control of the company’s core verticals, including attractions such as theme parks, water parks, museums, observation decks and buildings across Asia. His role involves undertaking research and analysis to help Klook improve its coverage, raise its conversion rates, improve the user experience, boost profitability and differentiate its products.

 

“After three years in auditing and two years in commercial finance, it was a good time for me to move a step closer to the business operations side,” he says. “Klook is a unique technology firm in Hong Kong; it’s based here but it has global coverage. From my previous experience I knew about project management and decision making. While I played a supporting role in my previous job, now I have to initiate projects that will provide revenue. You definitely feel like you’re in charge of projects; the responsibility is much bigger. Despite the pressure, the job is definitely more fulfilling.”

 

"When I looked back, I realize the QP helped me to apply a broad range of practical knowledge to my work. The workshops simulate real-life working situations. The QP equipped me with both the technical and soft skills I needed to succeed.", Li says.

 

During his spare time, Li volunteers as a tutor at St John’s College, a residential college affiliated to The University of Hong Kong where he stayed during his undergraduate years. He is responsible for providing young students with both academic and career advice, and more general mentoring. “When I was a student I found myself learning and developing a lot, becoming a more well-rounded person and more passionate about contributing to society,” he says. ‘I feel these core values are important, and I’d like to contribute to the next generation; I enjoy witnessing them grow.”

 

Interview and reporting by Richard Lord

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