As Internal Audit Manager at the Hong Kong Productivity Council, Jackson Li CPA is in charge of performing IT audits and overseeing the compliance of the organization’s operations. He tells A Plus what is most fulfilling about being an internal auditor, and why a firm understanding of IT – and knowing how to perform IT audits – can help internal auditors stay relevant and add value to an organization
What is your current role and responsibilities? How is it going so far?
I’m the Internal Audit Manager at the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC), which is a multidisciplinary organization that promotes productivity excellence through integrated advanced technologies and innovative service offerings to support enterprises in Hong Kong. HKPC helps businesses increase and upgrade their business performance, lower operating costs, increase productivity and enhance their competitiveness through new technologies such as big data analytics, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and digital manufacturing, to name a few. My main responsibilities include handling internal audit engagements, such as operations audits and fraud investigations. Most of the audits I handle are IT-related, so this includes examining and evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of the HKPC’s IT operations. It’s also my job to ensure staff members uphold high ethical standards and comply with applicable regulations, so I’m in charge of organizing compliance training and events for them. I joined the HKPC in 2019 and I’ve been enjoying this role since.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role, and why?
Our reputation is a priority, especially as a public organization. As mentioned, compliance is a significant part of my role, and it’s my department’s responsibility to make sure the HKPC complies with relevant laws and regulations such as the standards set by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong, the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance and the Competition Ordinance. It was also challenging learning how to perform an IT audit at the beginning. This required doing extensive research on this topic to get up to speed. I wanted to further enhance my knowledge in this area so I took the Certified Information Systems Auditor examination, which is a globally-accepted certificate for those who audit, control, monitor and assess an organization’s IT and business systems. It’s been very rewarding applying this new knowledge at work so far. But what’s most rewarding about being an internal auditor is understanding how a company truly works. At the HKPC, I’ve learned a lot about how different divisions operate. Though I’m still no expert yet in many operations, I have had the opportunity to learn more about it from senior management. The more I discuss with them, the more I learn about how to manage processes and systems, and the better I am at applying my skills to add value to the company.
What inspired you to become an accountant?
Accounting is a noble profession – we are held in high regard in society. Though I wasn’t the most studious student in secondary school, I was good with numbers and knew I wanted to become an accountant, so I majored in accounting and finance at Hong Kong Baptist University. I worked as a financial reporting accountant for two years after graduating but found myself more interested in figuring out how businesses and companies operate, so I decided to switch to becoming an internal auditor. I enjoy being more involved in operations.
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?
As an internal auditor, we have the opportunity to understand the inner workings of an organization. I was also an internal auditor at my previous company, a global manufacturing company, and was exposed to a lot of interesting areas such as how they deal with research and development, production, transportation, procurement, customs, security, warehousing and even cleaning. Companies rarely share inside information like this with others, but they have to with internal auditors, so I really appreciated the opportunity to learn from this. Going forward, I’d like to continue working in internal audit and specialize in IT – I think it is the future. Robotic process automation will play a bigger role in the profession, and this will require more IT audits and fewer traditional audits. This is why I want to focus on this area.
Which of the continuing professional development (CPD) courses did you find most helpful in your day-to-day work or in getting you to the next stage of your career?
I found the CPD courses most useful, especially the update on standards and regulations. The update refreshed my memory on the standard, which has really helped me to ensure compliance within the companies I’ve worked for. For example, when I have to perform tasks to do with recognizing income, I need to ensure it complies with the laws and regulations in Hong Kong according to Hong Kong Financial Reporting Standard 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers. So I need to make sure I’m on top of any updates. It’s especially important because if I notice that any internal policies are not up to standard, I’ll be able to point this out.