Q&A with a PAIP

04/28/2022

Frank Lam FCPA (practising), Assurance Director and Leader of Family Office at BDO in Hong Kong, on how he came to focus on family wealth management and rejoined the practice sector



What is the biggest lesson in your career so far?

A big lesson I learned is that sometimes one may not know exactly what he or she wants. After spending around 10 years in the first accounting firm I joined after graduation, I became so eager to explore a new career in the commercial finance sector. By that time, I thought I possessed the qualities that might better fit the non-audit sector. So, when the position of financial controller was offered to me, I couldn’t say no. Ironically, it only took me a few months to realize that I was well-suited for the project-based professional work such as audit engagements and enjoyed the teamwork involved. Therefore, I rejoined the audit industry after less than six months and have remained in the profession to date. Sometimes you can only find out whether something is right for you after you have tried it out.

What do you like most about specializing in assurance and family office services?

“People helping people achieve their dreams” is our global organization’s vision. This is not only a motto of our organization but also a realistic and achievable goal when serving our clients, our colleagues and the communities. I like that I’m able to combine my assurance knowledge with the desires and dreams of personal well-being and the proper development of the younger generation, in order to deal with the challenges faced by individuals, families and even corporates.

In what ways has your CPA training helped you in your career?

My technical knowledge in accounting and financial management helps me to tackle issues relating to accounting treatments and commercial implication of financials. While the CPA training has given me sufficient practical experience in the accounting and audit fields, I also learned how to communicate with people from different walks of life. I get great satisfaction from being able to demonstrate how accounting can benefit businesses to people with non-accounting backgrounds using the appropriate analogies.

The Hong Kong government has started the consultation on the family office tax concession regime. How will this impact the development of Hong Kong as a family office hub?

I must say, the government is doing the right thing with the proposed tax concession, as it is necessary for turning Hong Kong into a family office hub for the region and globally too. Hong Kong’s competitive advantages are quite obvious: free capital flows, an established common law system that is globally recognized, proximity to Mainland China, monetary and political stability, well-developed financial infrastructure and a large pool of talent. It is therefore natural to take Hong Kong as the preferred location to set up family offices. The proposed tax concession would bring Hong Kong to a level playing field with other leading family office centres such as Singapore and Switzerland.


How would you advise those who are interested in working in family office services?

Effective communication is the most crucial aspect to succeed in the industry. Understanding the client’s needs is central in family office services as such needs may not be apparent at the beginning. Sometimes, it takes key family members a while to recognize and appreciate their needs. One then needs to build trust with them through effective communication. To do this, apart from being familiar with the prevailing market sentiment, family office professionals must also understand the psychology of the family members.