As Risk Advisory Manager at BDO, Ivan So CPA helps his clients to mitigate a wide range of risks and, in doing so, builds stronger relationships with them. He tells A Plus why staying two steps ahead of risk is key to helping companies avoid it, and to being a future-ready consultant
What is your current role and responsibilities? How is it going so far?
As Risk Advisory Manager at BDO, I am in charge of conducting risk assessments, as well as internal control, corporate governance, and regulatory compliance reviews for our clients, who are mainly from the financial services sector, including banks, insurance companies and licensed corporations. I am also responsible for the planning and coordination of each engagement. I hold regular status meetings with teams to ensure everything is on track and also communicate regularly with my clients and different parties to maintain a close working relationship with them. I provide in-house and external training on internal controls and compliance practices to my peers and to the senior management of our clients. Everything is going very well. I enjoy my job very much and I have genuine enthusiasm for the work.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role, and why?
The most challenging aspect is the ongoing demand to learn and the need to understand new professional and regulatory developments. To conduct regulatory compliance reviews, I need to be familiar with and stay abreast of the latest and upcoming laws and regulations, for example, the introduction of legislation for a new Hong Kong licensing regime in June to regulate the licensing of virtual asset service providers and the trading of cryptocurrencies for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing purposes. New regulations can have a tremendous impact on the business and operation processes of regulated entities. I have to read and thoroughly understand relevant consultation papers, analyses and articles from other institutions, and attend seminars and forums. This helps me to understand the challenges and problems faced by our clients, and present them with a workable and effective solution. Though the role is challenging, I enjoy solving issues for our clients and deepening my relationship with them. It’s satisfying when your work leads to positive changes within companies and benefits their customers, suppliers and staff. I also appreciate the opportunity to learn every day through handling different projects and working with highly regarded subject matter experts in different areas.
What inspired you to become an accountant?
I never thought that I would become an accountant – I was a science student in secondary school and wanted to be a pharmacist. The idea of becoming an accountant first came to my mind when I watched a documentary revealing the inside story of the infamous Enron scandal. I realized how important auditors are in preventing fraud and protecting investors, and I wanted to be one of them. After that, I was determined to pursue a career in auditing and chose to study accounting at university before I started my career as an auditor.
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 would love to advance within this role and continue specializing in risk advisory. I hope to obtain other qualifications related to my profession in order to upskill myself and expand my professional competence, and aim to take on more responsibilities and new challenges that bring out the best in me. I look forward to growing with the firm and assisting younger colleagues to achieve their career objectives. In 10 years, I envision myself as a leader in this profession and one who gives back to society.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned so far from work experience or managers?
By working as a manager, I learned what leadership is. I realize that power does not come with the position or title that you hold. Instead, it comes from the people who are willing to follow your lead. If you want your subordinates to devote their efforts and deliver their best at work, you have to always put yourself in others’ shoes to understand how they feel, what they need, and what inspires them. It helps to build trust and create a positive team environment. We are not just here to lead the team to get the job done or tasks accomplished; we are here to help others grow. The more we help others to reach their full potential, the more successful we are as leaders. We also have to be passionate about our work, to enjoy what we do and to not see it as our job. When we feel excited about what we do, we stay motivated and engaged, and that helps us to tackle each day with focus and to always go the extra mile for the best results.
How do you think the Qualification Programme (QP) has helped you in your career so far, or prepared you for your current role?
I learned a great deal from the QP. Apart from the technical accounting and finance knowledge, it equipped me with the skill set needed in my career and helped to develop my business acumen and agility to view things from a commercial perspective. I am able to understand various business scenarios and cope with them effectively. For instance, I learned about risk and liquidity management, internal controls, and have been able to apply this knowledge to provide professional advice to our clients, especially when they are facing compliance and financial matters. The QP also trained me to think logically and holistically in my day-to-day work, and that has helped me to successfully handle a variety of situations that I encountered during my previous role as an auditor, as well as in my current role as a consultant.