What are the biggest lessons in your career so far?
Having worked in a non-governmental organizaton (NGO) for the past eight years, I consider financial planning and analysis to be really important. The board and executives of a non-subvented NGO have to devise a comprehensive financial analysis to plan ahead, with a view to seek funding from philanthropists and develop a business model that is self-sustaining in the long run. To me, it is also important for finance professionals to possess or develop their presentation skills. As board and executive members are usually from different backgrounds and professions, it is essential to explain complex financial concepts in a clear and concise manner.
What attracted you to the role at Hong Kong Arts Centre?
Hong Kong Arts Centre is an art hub that aims to bring art to the people of Hong Kong. It has different lines of business including art programmes, an art school, venue hire, property leasing etc. I was attracted to the idea of widening my horizons by experiencing a different sector – the art world. The work environment is warm and supportive. As a newcomer, this is great, as I have to lead and work with the existing team to accomplish designated tasks. Besides this, Hong Kong Arts Centre promotes work-life balance, and organizes a variety of art exhibitions and art-related short courses which staff are encouraged to join.
You were previously head of finance at Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation (HKBCF). What did you learn from your time there?
When I joined HKBCF in 2015, it was a small NGO based in Hong Kong Island. With the expansion of the organization and extension of its services to Kowloon, HKBCF continued to improve its internal control, risk management and corporate governance. I was heavily involved in the process by reviewing and formulating policies and procedures of the Foundation. An audit committee was formed to provide advice and recommendations on financial reporting, internal control and risk management. As a result, the corporate governance of HKBCF had been enhanced, raising public confidence. NGOs in general have increasingly acknowledged the public’s expectations on them to pursue governance best practices. Part of that is adopting transparent financial management practices, and this is where CPAs can come in.
In what ways has your CPA qualification helped you in your career?
The qualification and my audit background provides a strong foundation in financial accounting, auditing and regulatory compliance. The CPA qualification has also helped develop my analytical skills. I can easily understand and analyse financial statements, and therefore provide accurate financial insights to the board and executives for decision-making and risk management.
How can accountants help deal with the unique challenges NGOs face?
A unique challenge for NGOs is a complex funding structure as they source funding from different funding bodies and private donors. CPAs who work in NGOs need to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the scope of each funding, and comply with the requirements of funding bodies or donors in order to maintain funding. They can help establish robust financial management systems, ensure compliance with relevant regulations, develop effective budget forecasting and cash flow management, and show enhanced transparency and accountability to stakeholders.