Bonds built to last: Celebrating a decade of the HKICPA’s Mentorship Programme

Gigi Wong
Jocelyn Tam

As the Institute’s Mentorship Programme celebrates its 10th anniversary, three mentor-mentee pairs spanning different generations of the programme talk to Gigi Wong about its lasting impact on their careers and personal growth, what makes for an effective mentor-mentee relationship, and why mentorship schemes like this remain one of the profession’s best tools for nurturing long-term success

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Gigi Wong
Jocelyn Tam


When pondering moving from PwC to a smaller firm, Ambrose Chan knew there was no one better to turn to for guidance than Ivy Cheung.

As a Regional Senior Partner for KPMG China in Hong Kong with more than 30 years of industry experience, as well as a Past President of the Institute, Cheung has a wealth of experience and insights to draw upon. She is also Chan’s mentor. “Being able to share that perspective with Ambrose helped him gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities in front of him as he considered his next career move,” she says.

Rather than deciding for him, Cheung walked Chan through the scope of work he was likely to encounter across different fields – be it the commercial, regulatory or professional settings – and the pros and cons of each. Now a partner himself at United CPA & Co., a Hong Kong-based accounting firm, Chan finds his mentor’s sage counsel from years ago has stuck with him.

“I really appreciate having Ivy’s guidance at my career crossroads. Her perspectives helped me immensely in making the right choice and she pushed me to become the best version of myself,” he says.

Ivy Cheung, Regional Senior Partner for KPMG China, and Institute Past President, with her mentee Ambrose Chan, Partner at United CPA & Co.

Cheung and Chan are part of the first generation of mentor-mentee pairs in the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs’ Mentorship Programme, launched in 2015. The overarching goal of the programme is to foster non-judgemental, cross-discipline relationships where honest feedback and conversations can take place freely for the purpose of the mentee’s career development.

Mentors, who are Institute members in good standing with at least seven years of post-qualification experience, volunteer to share their expertise and guidance. Mentees must have less than seven years of post-qualification experience.

Over one year, the mentor and the mentee meet regularly, exchange text messages and find different ways to connect such as attending networking events, meals, hikes or any activities both enjoy. Marking its 10th anniversary this year, the structured yet adaptable programme has played a profound role in shepherding the careers of many budding CPAs in Hong Kong, creating almost 1,900 pairs of mentors and mentees.

“As the vice president at the time, I felt it was important to lead by example by joining the programme,” notes Cheung. “I wanted to pay it forward and provide guidance to the next generation of professionals, just as I had benefited from experienced mentors in my journey.”

As the accounting industry evolves, Cheung sees the programme as a two-way street. “It’s important that we work closely with younger professionals, who consistently bring in fresh, innovative ideas. Their new perspectives help strengthen my leadership skills within the firm,” she explains.

Work-life balance is a topic that often comes up in their conversations. “For me, public responsibilities and industry involvement mean constant activities outside typical office hours,” Cheung says. “I see these as opportunities to connect with our people and not part of my work.”

“I always encourage Ambrose to get involved in the professional community, as the connections we make through industry events will lead to useful opportunities down the road,” she adds.

“It’s important that we work closely with younger professionals,
who consistently bring in fresh, innovative ideas.”

For Chan, who was cutting his teeth into the industry then, the connections he made through the Mentorship Programme have proven invaluable. “Beyond just technical skills, I gained insight into the path Ivy and others had taken and how I could become a successful auditor myself,” he says.

Though their formal mentorship relationship ended in 2016, the pair still maintain an ongoing rapport.

According to Cheung, building trust is essential for a thriving mentorship. “Coming from different firms, Ambrose may feel less comfortable sharing concerns and worries with his direct superior,” she says. “Being a mentor is a serious commitment. We need to invest time to guide and support mentees. To do so, we need to put ourselves in their shoes with empathy and understanding.”

Chan recalls: “Ivy told me, ‘I’m not your boss so you can be honest with me. We can be transparent.’” And if there’s one impactful piece of advice he has gleaned from Cheung, it is to “remain open to feedback, listen well to others’ perspectives and avoid being too rigid in my own views.”

Chan made partner in his current firm at 30. No longer involved in hands-on groundwork, he now oversees higher-level tasks as manager of a 20-member team, and there is one duty that stands out most to him: picking up the mantle of mentorship. “My goal is to coach my staff clearly and supportively, delegating responsibilities to them and empowering them to grow into new roles,” he says.

Jessica Lam, Assistant Director of Finance at the University of Hong Kong, with her mentee, Ho Ting Him, Accounting Officer at The Treasury, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Committed to mutual learning

To Ho Ting Him, his mentor Jessica Lam has become a trusted friend and confidante with a relationship that has lasted long past the one-year duration of the Mentorship Programme.

During a lunch catch-up, Ho openly shared his career plan with Lam. “I was impressed by how candid he was. We had a great discussion as he bounced some career ideas off me and asked for my perspective,” Lam says.

Rather than a formal advice-seeking session, their conversation was more reminiscent of a light-hearted chat among two friends. “As mentees, sometimes we aren’t necessarily looking for concrete advice, but rather a trusted senior reassuring us that we can be brave in charting our career path,” Ho says.

Mentees in the Mentorship Programme are able to be part of multiple cohorts up to their seventh year, allowing them to learn from a variety of mentors. Ho has participated in the programme since 2019-2020, meeting five different mentors so far. “Every mentor is unique. I find value in meeting people from different walks of life and industries, and I want to keep learning from new individuals,” he explains.

Bonding Lam and Ho beyond the professional scope of the relationship are common interests and pastimes. Both are sports enthusiasts and, at the AC Fun Run 2024 organized by the Institute and two other accounting associations in February, both took home first runner-up trophies in their categories. “Participating in events like this together has strengthened our mentor-mentee relationship,” Ho says. “We also have similar communication styles and are passionate about our work. I’m so grateful that she’s always encouraging and supportive of me.”

Lam, who has over two decades of experience in auditing from a Big Four firm, and financial and management accounting from multinational corporations and a listed conglomerate, is the Assistant Director of Finance at the University of Hong Kong. She says the Mentorship Programme is all about mutual learning. “I’m always picking up new things from bright young folks, like the latest tech trends or whatever slang is popular these days. They help me stay young at heart,” she says.

“As mentees, sometimes we aren’t necessarily looking for concrete advice, but rather a trusted senior reassuring us that we can be brave in charting our career path.”

For example, Ho introduced her to some live webcasts as an additional source for getting free continuing professional development credits. They shared information about continuous learning and enrolled in the same online courses together when their schedules and goals matched, messaging in real-time and supporting each other’s learning.

Despite the usual busy work schedules of CPAs, mentors like Lam strive to make time for their mentees. “We get how busy everyone is with work and personal commitments. A year can go by in a flash. So we need to make the effort to be available when they have questions or want advice,” she notes. “It helps the relationship grow.”

This commitment comes down to a willingness to guide up-and-coming professionals to the benefit of the whole industry. “Sharing what I’ve learned over the years is a way for me to give back to the profession and contribute to nurture the younger generation,” she says.

As his career has evolved from an intern to an audit senior at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, to working at Morgan Stanley and the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority, and now as an Accounting Officer at The Treasury, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Ho lives and breathes the meaning of taking it one step at a time.

“Jessica always reminds me of the importance of prioritizing work responsibilities while making time for self-care,” Ho says. He has applied that by blocking out parts of each day for work meetings and tasks, and making sure to schedule time for gym, yoga and connecting with family and friends.

He says being proactive is key to getting the most out of the Mentorship Programme, “We can talk to our mentors like they’re older siblings – open, honest and informal.”

Taking the initiative was especially important for Ho to stay connected with his mentors during the pandemic when face-to-face interaction was limited. “I made sure to regularly reach out to my mentors to keep the lines open. I’d send occasional WhatsApp messages when I needed advice on my goals and dreams or any challenges I was facing,” he explains.

As with all cherished relationships in life, Ho doesn’t take his mentors and their support for granted. “Every Institute mentor is choosing to volunteer their time to give back to the community. If I’m ever in a position to, I’d be happy to pay it forward myself someday by mentoring other young professionals in turn,” he says.

Fong Wai Hau, Louis, Head of Strategic Planning at M&F International Development Company (pictured right) with his mentee, Sam Tang, Investment Analyst at FTLife Insurance.

From mentee to mentor

As Sam Tang adjusted to a new role at his company, he had slight difficulties getting along with one co-worker. “We were never quite on the same page when working together,” Tang told his mentor Fong Wai Hau, Louis during one of their meetings.

Fong could relate. “I shared a similar experience early in my career. I told Sam that, when conflicts arise, it’s important to set aside our emotions and focus on what can be learned from the situation instead,” he recalls.

Anticipating what the other person needs, preparing ahead of time and articulating his thoughts when working as a team are among the soft skills Tang gleaned from that experience. “Louis guided me to see things in a new light and understand where the other person is coming from,” Tang says.

Fong had taken part in the Institute’s Mentorship Programme for six years since 2018 and benefited greatly from his time as a mentee. In 2023-24, his role shifted from mentee to mentor. “My experience as a mentee helped me empathize with the challenges and uncertainties they face, as I personally went through them. This is useful for me to tailor my approach for Sam,” Fong says.

One of Fong’s previous mentors through the programme was the Chief Financial Officer of Hong Kong Science Park, and he valued the opportunity to learn from someone established in the field. “My mentor helped me analyse my career journey – what I should be doing at each stage, whether to pursue financial reporting or auditing, and what to consider when choosing jobs,” Fong adds.

Drawing guidance from his mentors, Fong has since gained over 10 years of diverse experience. He pursued a career in banking and is now Head of Strategic Planning at M&F International Development Company, where he specializes in mergers and acquisitions.

“The exposure to different professions is really broad. As a
mentee, you get an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to build
a career in areas that intrigue you, whether it’s in your own field or something completely different.”

One of the strengths of the programme, according to Fong, is the flexibility mentees have in choosing their mentors’ industries. “In addition to core accounting and finance fields, participants can also pick mentors in industries like technology, medical, retail and engineering.”

“The exposure to different professions is really broad. As a mentee, you get an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to build a career in areas that intrigue you, whether it’s in your own field or something completely different,” he adds.

With a growing perception that Hong Kong has lost competitive ground to Singapore for attracting finance and banking businesses, the programme wasn’t only a springboard for his own professional growth, it fostered a culture of lifelong learning in the community, Fong says.

“As finance professionals, taking courses and participating in mentorship programmes through organizations like the HKICPA are excellent ways to transfer knowledge between generations and upskill ourselves,” he says. “All of this will strengthen Hong Kong’s position as a financial centre.”

Tang himself has made some big career jumps over the years, from Deloitte to a boutique corporate finance firm and now as an Investment Analyst at FTLife Insurance. “These are some pretty different environments. Louis helped me problem-solve and broadened my perspective on the many paths in finance and auditing, especially as fintech and artificial intelligence continue growing rapidly,” Tang says. “We also bond over shared interests in cryptocurrency, investing and NFTs.”

Tang notes that the Institute’s Mentorship Programme differs from a college mentorship scheme he joined previously, “I only met up with my then mentor once, and that was the extent of it. It’s much harder to maintain that kind of relationship compared to what I now have with Louis.”

As they live in the same neighbourhood, the two find time to meet casually over lunch or coffee to connect. “It’s like having a like-minded friend who can offer a valuable second opinion,” Tang says.

After the programme ended, Tang continued to reach out to Fong when considering a career move and they would weigh different options together.

“The mentorship was transformative in the sense that it builds an industry-wide support system for young accountants,” Tang says. “Louis’ advice on setting goals, taking smart risks and being committed to continuous learning has truly shaped my growth. For that, I’ll always be grateful.”

The Mentorship Programme: what to know
  • A member in good standing, with post-qualification experience of seven years or above, is welcome to be a mentor.
  • A member with post-qualification experience less than seven years is eligible to apply as a mentee.

The matching process will be undertaken by the Institute based on compatibility and the learning needs indicated by the mentees.

  • Regular meetings and communication between mentor and mentees.
  • Institute-hosted activities such as training sessions and gatherings.

12-month cycle beginning in April

Visit the dedicated website and stay tuned for information on the next cohort.


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