Allan Lam CPA

Allan Lam CPA, Finance Director at Tory Burch Far East, on how his CPA skills and knowledge are helping the American fashion brand navigate the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic


What have been the three biggest lessons in your career so far?

Firstly, it would be knowing how to motivate your team and influence the people around you. Be humble and acknowledge that you may not know everything, and find ways to work effectively with your team. One person may only move a small rock, but a group of people can move a bigger rock. Motivating your team to move in the same direction is critical for success. The second lesson would be “keep it simple.” Sometimes when we work, we create unnecessary steps or processes that can overcomplicate things. So I always ask myself, “do I really need this process?” To have an entrepreneurial mindset means managing the business like it’s your own. That would be the third lesson. With this mindset, you will be more committed and serious about the work. This attitude has been important throughout my career.

What attracted you to the industry?

I never really thought about working in the retail fashion industry, it was all a coincidence. But I love the industry. Seeing the products go from design, sourcing, production, delivery, warehousing, retailing and to the customers is very interesting and fulfiling. Tory Burch is 17 years old and is still a fast growing brand. It’s an exciting, purpose-led brand with beautiful products made by passionate designers. I remember thinking, “That’s a team I want to be a part of.” And of course, I was attracted to its growth potential in Asia. Tory Burch Far East is the brand’s Asia holding company. It purchases all the goods and sells to the subsidiaries in Asia.

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

The CPA qualification is critical, and helps me keep my knowledge up to date, particularly on changing accounting rules and regulations. I oversee not only financial reporting, but also financial planning and analysis, taxation, treasury, internal control and company secretary related roles. These are all linked together and related to my CPA knowledge.

How do you think retailers and fashion brands can best navigate the post-COVID recovery period?

Be creative, and take advantage of technology, especially in promoting and selling products. During this COVID pandemic, we learned a lot when foot traffic was very low and stores were closed. We couldn’t just rely on brick and mortar stores and had to look for other alternatives. Brands should make use of social media and e-commerce platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, WeChat, Taobao just to name a few, as they are powerful for promoting products and can help the brand grow. They should also look at different ways of selling and how to quickly deliver the products to the customers.

What are critical focus areas for the finance function in the new year?

In the new year, we are focusing on enhancing our internal system, as well as streamlining and automating more processes. This is a good exercise and will allow us to take the opportunity to review what processes we really need. With the growth in business, we also will focus on making sure the team is well-structured and prepared for future expansion. We need to be ready for the challenges ahead.

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