Ambrose Chan

Ambrose Chan, Partner at United CPA & Co., and Institute member, on what makes the working culture at smaller firms special, and why small- and medium-sized practices should focus on building strong relationships with clients

What are the biggest lessons in your career so far?

One is the importance of communication. For auditors, effective communication is critical to ensuring that all parties understand the audit process, the results of the audit, and any recommendations for improvement. Another one is the importance of attention to detail and thoroughness, particularly as we review large amounts of financial data and documentation to identify potential issues and areas of risk. This requires a high level of attention to detail and a commitment to thoroughness to ensure no issues are overlooked. Last but not least is the importance of adaptability and flexibility. The business environment is constantly changing, and auditors must be able to adapt to these changes and adjust audit procedures.

What do you like most about working at a small- and medium-sized practice (SMP)?

SMPs offer a more personalized service, where staff can work closely with clients and develop strong relationships with them. They can also offer more opportunities for professional growth and development, as it’s common for staff to take on a wider range of responsibilities. The working culture is often more collaborative and team-oriented, with staff working together to solve complex problems and achieve goals. This can lead to a more supportive and motivating work environment, where staff feel valued and appreciated for their contributions.

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

It enhanced my credibility. It signifies that the individual has met rigorous standards and has a deep understanding of accounting principles and regulations. My clients, therefore, can rely on my professional services and advice to make better business decisions. It has also expanded my professional network. Lastly, the diversity of the training has enabled me to offer a wide range of services to clients, which helps me to expand my client base.

What are the key challenges that SMPs are currently facing?

Regulatory updates and changes in auditing standards can be overwhelming for SMPs. Attracting and retaining top talent is another struggle. Most audit firms – not only SMPs – are working hard to find ways to offer competitive compensation packages and opportunities for career growth to retain staff. Of course, with limited resources, it can also be challenging for SMPs to manage costs effectively. To overcome these challenges, my firm is taking several steps including increasing workplace flexibility; investing in training and development; and embracing technology. Adopting technology can help SMPs streamline the operations and reduce costs. I also think there should be a focus on client service. SMPs should focus on building strong relationships with clients and providing services that meet their needs and exceed their expectations.

Tell us about your firm’s digital transformation journey so far.

We have subscribed to a well-known cloud-based platform to enable us to collaborate with clients more effectively. It’s used for document sharing and communication, providing real-time access to audit findings and reports. In the long term, we aim to use automation tools to streamline the audit process and reduce the time spent on the repetitive tasks. Some software vendors are developing “report generation tools” and “workflow automation tools” for SMPs, which we will look out for.

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