Hong Kong: A land of opportunity for CAs
Nicky Burridge caught up with the CAs embracing life and work in a thriving Asian metropolis.
Hong Kong has been a magnet for CAs from its days as a key Asian possession of the British Empire to its current status as a 'special administrative region' of the People’s Republic of China.
The region's success as a leading banking and financial sector has reportedly been largely due to a focus on innovation, low and simple taxation and a lack of restrictions on capital flows into or out of the territory.
We spoke with two CAs based in Hong Kong about the career choices that took them there and what their experience has taught them so far about leadership.
James Kirchheimer CA, Director, Prudential Corporation Asia
James Kirchheimer CA relocated to Hong Kong from London in the middle of last year. Having previously worked in Shanghai, he described the move as “a bit of a return”.
While he was promoted internally, his decision to come to Hong Kong was apparently much more about being in a great environment that interested him.
He said: “The UK insurance market is pretty mature, and as such the focus is very much on trying to maintain market share.
“In contrast, over here there is so much growth and change, and it feels like there is a lot of opportunity. I think simply because of the fast-growing nature of the market there are opportunities here for advancement that don’t necessarily exist in a more established market.”
James advises people who are considering a move to Hong Kong to come because they love the idea of being in Asia, rather than just because of the opportunities.
He commented: “I think the biggest thing is to move here because of where it is, and not in spit of where it is.
"Some people are in Hong Kong to embrace all of the weird and wonderful differences, and you have other people who wish it was a little bit more like home.
“I think the local element is the best part, whether for work or pleasure.”
One management lesson he has learnt during his time in Hong Kong is the importance of treating people as individuals, and finding out what motivates them.
He said: “When working in different parts of Asia you do get very different character traits, so it is important to have an individual focus and treat everyone in a way that works with them.”
Kathryn Blakemore CA, Compliance Manager, Aegon Asia
Kathryn Blakemore CA has been in Hong Kong for nine years. When she first arrived, she took a career break to have two children and went back to work three years ago, taking up a post with Aegon.
She said: “Being in Hong Kong has helped me get my career back. It was an amazing opportunity to get back to work.”
Kathryn was recruited by Aegon for a post relating to a specific project they were having trouble filling from local talent.
She commented: “I don’t think such a good opportunity would have come up in the UK. The local market is very buoyant here and there are more jobs around.”
She added that she may never have been able to return to work if she had not had a CA qualification from ICAS and a PwC background, as both organisations are well recognised internationally.
To anyone who is considering a move to Hong Kong, she said: “I think it is a fantastic place. For your career, it adds that extra international dimension that you just can’t get at home. You work with a very diverse workforce and you really get exposed to a huge variety of people.
“The market I am in is quite hot. In the UK a lot of companies are reorganising and restructuring, and jobs are not easy to come by. The opportunities are better here and there are very interesting regional roles.”
One thing she has learnt working in Hong Kong is the importance of adapting your leadership style.
She stated: “You have to adapt and change your style. You have to try to appreciate and understand the culture differences you are met with and the different working styles.
“I think treating every person and culture with respect is really key to getting the best out of people, and to me it is also just having a really strong communication style and understanding everybody’s point of view.”
About the author
Nicky Burridge has worked as a journalist for more than 16 years. She started her career at the Press Association as a news reporter, before becoming Personal Finance Correspondent, a post she held for more than 10 years.
During her time at the Press Association her work for the PA Newswire was published in a range of national and regional newspapers, including the Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, the Independent and the Guardian.
In 2011 she moved to Hong Kong and went freelance, writing for a number of publications including the South China Morning Post, Daily Mail and a host of specialist financial magazines. She also held the post of senior editor for investment magazine Benchmark.