Be the light of the others – Sharing knowledge & bringing hope!
The stereotype of accountants is that they are usually boring, math nerds, or even “hermits”. Rumour has it that Artificial Intelligence will replace accountants soon and they would no longer be needed. Meet Nelson Lam (BBA Accounting, 1991) and think again.
Be resourceful like a department store
With more than 30 years of experience in accounting and auditing, Nelson, founder and Chairman of Nelson CPA Limited, Vice- President of Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA), and Director and Executive Committee Chairman of the Accounting Development Foundation Limited (ADF), is no dull introvert, but somewhat an “activist” in the professional services sector and beyond. “Accountants are actually resourceful like a department store with comprehensive knowledge about different industries,” Nelson suggested, “because all businesses need accounting and auditing.”
With a core role in all businesses, accountants can provide a fresh pair of eyes in planning a company’s operations for sustainable development. “This is the part that A.I. cannot replace - the human brain - because there are always factors that need analysing through active listening and clear communication, but not by mere calculation of numbers by A.I.”
As one of the industry’s authorities, Nelson has been a regular speaker at seminars on financial reporting, accounting and auditing standards.
Because sharing is caring
Of course, to stay competitive one must keep progressing by continuously acquiring new knowledge and skills. Nelson said his friends often joke that his hobby was reading financial statements – he admits it – it isn’t a joke! More importantly, he doesn’t keep what he has read to himself. He shares his insights with students and practitioners to try to advance best practice.
For more than a decade, other than being a CPA, Nelson has been in many “side businesses”, such as lecturing at HKBU, speaking at seminars, and writing books about auditing, assurance and international financial reporting standards. “I first started out with an invitation by Dr. Peter Lau [Associate Dean of the School and Principal Lecturer of the Department of Accountancy and Law] to co-author an intermediate accounting book. Since then I have been reviewing and publishing new ones,” recalled Nelson. Nelson’s books have been widely used by accounting and auditing students and practitioners in Asia. He then developed this side business to become a columnist in a magazine, sharing his professional knowledge in plain language to try to enhance the public’s “financial literacy”.
Nelson (centre) has been a staunch supporter of the School, especially in sharing his professional knowledge with students, researchers and practitioners.
Use your voice effectively, for businesses and the community
As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Not only does Nelson care about the well-being and development of industry practitioners, he also uses his professional knowledge in finance and accounting to contribute to the public sector, including the Urban Renewal Authority, the Transport Advisory Committee of the Transport and Housing Bureau, and the Air Transport Licensing Authority. Lately, he has further stepped up his efforts to contribute to society.
“The coronavirus pandemic has been affecting everyone around the world, one way or another, with no exception. The earlier scenes in Hong Kong that the elderly queued up over chilly nights for masks and sanitary items really struck me,” said Nelson, “that was the moment that I think we should better leverage our fundraising ability to do something for the community at large.”
Being the Director of the Accounting Development Foundation and a respected veteran in the industry, he set up the “Accountancy Caring Alliance” initiative to support practitioners and the underprivileged in society. The initiative has received tremendous support – around HK$1 million has been raised in a short time – from influential figures in the sector, including the Hong Kong Business Accountants Association and the Society of Chinese Accountants and Auditors (SCAA). He then started a series of mask-giving activities for charities, aiming to provide support and bring hope to those in need. “We are not doing much or anything big. We are part of the community, so we have our part to play.”
The Accountancy Caring Alliance initiative has had a positive impact on the community in a short time, and further collaborations with charities are being initiated.
Nelson’s (centre) Accountancy Caring Alliance initiative to donate masks to charities for the underprivileged, has attracted strong support from the accounting and finance sector. Other alumni of the School of Business have also been involved, including Mr. Edmund Wong (MSc in Applied Accounting and Finance, 2013; fourth from left), President of SCAA, and Mr. Bernard Wu (BBA Accounting, 1993; third from left), Vice Chairman at Poseidon Hill Capital and Chairman of the HKBU School of Business Alumni Association.
Good old days pave ways for a bright future
Nelson always finds it amusing to look back to his undergraduate days at the then Hong Kong Baptist College, because it was a transforming experience. “It is a cohesive place full of care like a family. I wasn’t a typical good student before getting into HKBC, but then I started to build confidence from the support and encouragement by professors on my coursework, and through the numerous activities we enjoyed as students. The overall experience has shown me the power of giving, and made me such a positive person with energy.”
Over the years, Nelson has been appointed to a number of positions that were well beyond a CPA’s capacity. How did he manage to become qualified for these challenges?
“My favourite quote is ‘Chance favours the prepared mind’,” shared Nelson. “As I said being a CPA or an auditor has to be like running a department store. ‘Understanding the entity and the environment including the internal control’ is one of the international standards on auditing, meaning it is our duty to prepare ourselves and to know a bit of everything. So when an opportunity or a challenge comes to you, you will be able to catch it and do well by continuous learning.”
Never a dull moment in his student life at HKBC. Nelson made lifelong friends at HKBC, many of whom he still works with.