As Director, Corporate Internal Audit at adidas AG, Lawrence Leung is responsible for setting up internal controls and advising stakeholders on the next steps. Since moving to Germany in 2017, he has adapted well to the role, and tells A Plus what is most enjoyable about living and working there
What is your current role and responsibilities? How is it going so far?
I’m one of the Directors of Corporate Internal Audit at adidas AG based in Germany. In my role, I advise management on implementing and sustaining sound governance and internal controls to address risks within the company. This is done through internal audits. I often lead teams that work on complex and high-risk topics. It’s been three years since I took on this role, and I am happy about the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met. I moved to Nuremberg, Germany in 2017 when this opportunity came up. It was not an easy decision back then, especially having worked in Hong Kong for almost 10 years. adidas’ “creating the new” initiative sums up my favourite thing about living and working in Germany. It’s a space where I get to experience new things, and an opportunity to work with a diverse and international team. My team of 25 alone has people from 13 different countries and each person has worked in different places – that’s truly international! I’ve learned a lot from the people around me who think differently, and in the process, I improve.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role, and why?
Every project is unique, and each one offers many opportunities to learn and experience new things. More importantly, I work with different team members and business counterparts every time. These new experiences are the most rewarding part of being an internal auditor. Think about this scenario: I sit in a room with different business counterparts who are experienced in what they do. They show me how processes work, what issues they face, and how they manage them. I learn all of this while doing my job. Eventually, I understand new topics quickly and it’s an essential requirement in my role. On the other hand, this scenario presents an equal challenge. I need to learn quick enough to advise these stakeholders and provide additional insights. Sometimes, that means doing things differently. For example, some of our stores had to be temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but that boosted e-commerce. To support business priorities, I brought my internal audit and finance skills to the e-commerce teams and analysed weekly sales and costs trends in an environment where consumer behaviours change. These analyses helped me guide business owners in adjusting their marketing investment decisions.
Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years in your career? Which field do you plan on specializing in, and why?
I’d like to continue working in internal audit. I’d also like to go into business management and take on more advisory roles with adidas. This would be my long-term goal. I hope to continue working here in Germany for the next two or three years, and maybe moving on to another location after that for work. It’s hard to say where next, given the current situation around the world, but I’m open to moving around.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is building trust while giving stakeholders the best advice. Internal auditors are there to advise on risk and internal controls, but sometimes, stakeholders may have different views or priorities. Therefore, it’s important to bring enough facts and reasoning to the table and communicate them in a considerate manner. Listening – truly listening – has helped me understand different perspectives in difficult conversations. To be an effective advisor, you need people to trust you.
How do you think the Qualification Programme (QP) has helped you in your career so far, or prepared you for your current role?
The QP is a multifaceted programme that challenges students to approach business issues in different ways. In university, I learned the fundamental concepts of commerce and accounting. The QP takes it to another level. I was challenged to approach practical and complex business issues from beyond an accounting perspective. This is an important skill to have when you advise business leaders and has been a foundation throughout my career. At the end of the day, the QP, and thereafter the CPA qualification, is a recognition of my professional knowledge, ethics, and commitment to continuous development.