Young member of the month

12/30/2021

As Compliance Manager at Airwallex Hong Kong Ltd., Agnes Cheuk CPA ensures the global payments platform complies with relevant anti-money laundering regulations and advises management on the best steps to take. She tells A Plus how advisors like herself help to ensure the correct internal controls are in place and about the need for accountants to be proactive, lifelong learners 



What is your current role and responsibilities? How is it going so far?

I’m a Compliance Manager at Airwallex Hong Kong Ltd., an international digital payments company. My responsibilities include designing and managing the company’s risk management framework in compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, and communicating my recommendations to members of senior management. Things move very quickly in the fintech world, so it’s important to stay on top of both AML and fintech updates. 

What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role, and why?

The most challenging aspect of the role is knowing how to think out of the box in mitigating money laundering and terrorist financing risks with technology. The fintech industry is still relatively new compared with the traditional banking industry and its regulatory framework is undergoing changes. This means I need to reference common industry practices and take into account advice and regulatory expectations when making decisions and recommendations. The most rewarding aspect of the role is being able to provide compliance advice to senior management and seeing my suggestions make an impact. 

What inspired you to become an accountant?

I was first introduced to accounting back in secondary school and inspired by my teacher. Though a lot of my classmates said it was “boring,” I found it interesting because I wanted to understand how to look at a company’s performance. I also learned that in the commercial world, a strong accounting background will help you to understand business, so I majored in accounting and finance at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. After graduating, I began my career at Deloitte as an auditor and attained my CPA qualification.

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’ve been working in AML for more than six years now and I want to continue doing so. Working in compliance is very different from working in accounting or auditing, which is more focused on analysing the financial performance of a company. In financial accounting, we look back and see the reasons for the company’s performance. But in the compliance world, we look forward to see the compliance risks behind a company’s processes and operations. I need to conduct compliance reviews of high-risk customers, related issues and review potentially suspicious cases for regulatory reporting and filing. By spotting and addressing red flags early on, we can help companies grow healthily and avoid regulatory enforcement. This is what I find interesting and why I want to stay in the field. 

What are the biggest lessons you have learned so far from work experience or managers?

It would be the importance of having a professional scepticism mindset. Having worked on fraud cases in my previous roles, I learned that in order to be a good auditor, you can’t just simply report what your clients have said; you need to maintain a level of curiosity and assess the credibility of a client’s information. With a professional scepticism mindset, you’re able to look at the financial performance of a company, design certain audit procedures and then reasonably audit those figures to ensure they are accurate and complete. Working in compliance doesn’t make you an investigator; we act as a second line of defense within a company and try to close loopholes when they are identified. Having an effective line of defense will make it more difficult for criminals to launder criminal proceeds. 


How do you think the Qualification Programme (QP) has helped you in your career so far, or prepared you for your current role?

I remember learning about financial reporting, business assurance, taxation and corporate governance when I was a QP student. Back at Deloitte, I applied key fundamental concepts during audits, which I learned from the QP. But the most important lesson I learned from the programme was the need to be proactive. It’s easy to fall into a routine at work and forget that we need to continue learning. The world is rapidly changing, so it’s crucial for us as accountants to stay updated, especially when it comes to using new technologies on the job. My CPA training has broadened my horizons and allowed me to look at different companies’ financial performance, especially in the AML world. Without this experience, I doubt I would be able to do so. The QP is ideal for fresh graduates as it equips them with expertise to stand out and also opens up a whole host of career possibilities.