Since young, I have always wanted to pursue a career related to business and law. I realised this dream by being a Tax Advisor. Analysing tax codes and regulations and presenting solutions which meet clients’ business needs have kept me passionate about this profession for the past 20 years. I did my internship with IRAS, have worked for two Big 4 firms, headed the in-house tax team of a public-listed company, and am now working in BDO. And till this day, I still find tax work very interesting and fulfilling.
Keeping pace with change
The key challenge to a Tax Advisor is keeping up with the changing taxation and business environment. Local and international tax rules and regulations, regulators’ tax practices, and the way business is conducted are always evolving. I am constantly thinking of holistic solutions for clients as it is important to make both tax and business sense!
I ask a lot of questions to understand my client’s business, do lots of reading, and attend tax conferences to understand business trends and changing tax rules and practices. Maintaining a circle of friends in the tax industry is important too!
In the Middle Kingdom
The turning point of my career was a two-year secondment which turned into a six-year stint in Beijing, China. The wide exposure on both Chinese and international taxes not only brought my technical skills to the next level, but my client management skills were also put to the test and deeply sharpened.
My two years as the Global Head of Tax of a public-listed company was an eye and mind opener too, as I ventured into the commercial world and discovered that operational and business issues are often neglected by tax consultants. That became a very valuable lesson that will always stay with me.
Leading a tax practice
BDO, where I am currently working, provides me with vast opportunities to exercise my managerial, business and technical skillsets. Leading the tax practice and striving to bring it to greater heights excites me, and my tax career has become even more meaningful since I joined BDO.
My work now involves developing young professionals, raising the profile of our practice, and strengthening client relationships while still honing my business and technical skills. This is indeed an important milestone in my career, as I get to put my expertise and experience to good use. The roles and responsibilities I assume are challenging – and at times, daunting – but motivating and enriching at the same time!
Key advice for leaders
A leader inspires, motivates and empowers. He or she makes decisions and stands by it, balances short-term needs with long-term goals, and brings the group together while still remaining personable to the individual. In this new age, leadership may have taken on a whole new definition, but I believe the fundamentals remain unchanged. Good interpersonal and communication skills are still key, although the modes of communication may be quite different these days.
My advice: have courage
One advice I have is to be brave in the pursuit of your career. When I took up Tax, most of my close friends were considering either Audit or Finance. I wavered a little, but chose to stick to my decision while constantly reminding myself that what’s worth pursuing should be pursued well and for a long time.
This entails having an open mind and going beyond the call of duty, stepping out of your comfort zone to try new things, and learning from mistakes. Keep improving, keep refreshing yourself, and continue the journey. There is no stopping in the tax world!