As Associate Vice President, Finance Manager at Christie’s Asia, Louis Lin oversees the financial operations of its offices across Asia-Pacific. He tells A Plus what he enjoys most about adding value as an accountant, and why working at an auction house has set the stage for a fulfilling career ahead
What is your current role and responsibilities? How is it going so far?
As Associate Vice President, Finance Manager at Christie’s Asia, my daily tasks include monitoring the financial operations of our offices in Asia. We have several regional offices within Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, India and Japan. My main responsibilities are to oversee the financial reporting and compliance aspects, and also try to find ways to automate the company’s financial reporting and control systems. The role is both very challenging and rewarding. I joined in 2013, and within the last eight years, I’ve participated in different system enhancements as well as merger and acquisition projects and learned a lot from each one.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role, and why?
What’s most challenging is helping the company upgrade and automate its internal systems. For example, payment request forms were still handwritten when I first joined, so I helped to change that, and forms are now filled out in an Excel template. This small change alone was met with many questions from existing colleagues, so I remember working with my boss to promote this new way of filling forms to different departments and across our APAC offices. I also helped to migrate all our old accounting data when our company decided to move from an old, manual system to an enterprise resource planning system in 2015. It was a big change to how each department worked. I love working at Christie’s – it’s a very niche industry. Our company holds seasonal auctions in May and November, and during each auction, my colleagues and I go on stage to help our auction clerks record each bid within the accounting systems. I love being on stage and standing under a spotlight during each auction – I don’t think many accountants get to do this! I enjoy seeing the reactions of our potential buyers and the interaction between the auctioneer, potential buyers and our team. There’s always a tense and competitive atmosphere, especially when high-value lots are being auctioned off. Some objects could start at HK$100,000 and end up costing several millions after. There are different categories for the objects we auction off, such as fine art, wine, watches, jewellery and handbags. I find it all to be very interesting.
What inspired you to become an accountant?
Since high school, I found myself interested in and good at the integration of science and liberal arts, and accounting is a subject requires skills in both quantitative and qualitative analysis. I studied physics back in high school and both accounting and physics involve numbers, so I found accounting to be an interesting major. As an accountant, I can use my skills to help companies, management and clients to solve their financial related problems, provide them with forecasts or warnings, or make changes before a crisis happens. CPAs are highly recognized in society and getting qualified was a good starting point for me to contribute my knowledge and skills to both private and public sectors.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned so far from work experience or managers?
My current boss, who has worked in the financial sector for over 20 years, always shares meaningful stories and knowledge with us. For example, I learned that being an accountant isn’t only about being really good with numbers and calculations. It’s also important for us to have very strong interpersonal skills and that we have to be persuasive when communicating with both individuals within and outside of the organization.
How do you think the Qualification Programme (QP) has helped you in your career so far, or prepared you for your current role?
I found the QP to be very useful and memorable, especially Module D taxation. I remember that we had to analyze different tax scenarios and then make arguments for each one. I do a lot of regular tax filing and need to provide advice to management in terms of tax implications for particular transactions. So the knowledge I gained from this module helped me a lot. In addition to technical skills, the QP enhances students’ analytical and communication skills, which is very useful in our day-to-day work, as accountants also need to be effective communicators.