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Agnes Chan: 'Accountancy is in my DNA'

Passion and persistence haveled a mother to the topof a male-dominated profession, writes Mukul Munish

 

Agnes Chan Sui-kuen says a professional should possess three Ps to move ahead in a career: passion, patience and persistence. The first female Hong Kong and Macau regional managing partner at big four accounting firm Ernst & Young has forged ahead, thanks to these qualities.

The past year or so has been the crowning glory for Chan and one she describes as "most memorable".

On the personal front, she was chosen as a member of the Election Committee, from the accountancy functional constituency, that chose Hong Kong's chief executive. She says it was a "rare experience for me and a big accomplishment".

Then she was named by the China Women's Association as a Top 100 Chinese Women Entrepreneur of the Year and received the award in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. This was followed by the Leading Tax Advisers award in Hong Kong from the Guide to the World's Leading Tax Advisers.

Professionally, Chan can boast a number of achievements, including consolidating the two offices of Ernst & Young in Central into one occupying nine floors of Citic Towers in Central. To cap it all, the Hong Kong and Macau office of the firm achieved double-digit growth, commendable because it came in a mature market such as Hong Kong during tough economic times.

Chan was destined to do big things in the profession, coming as she does from a family of accountants.

"Accountancy is in my DNA," she says. Of five siblings, four chose accountancy as their career.

Chan showed early interest by accompanying her mother to wet markets and counting the change handed over by the vendors. "I was very good at counting," she says.

She has faced many challenges in her three-decade career. She says that in 1991 she and her husband had to return to Hong Kong from Australia to take care of her mother-in-law. It was a big challenge as, in the previous year, she had given birth to a son. "As a new mother, I had to take care of my son and my husband had a travelling job then. In his absence, I had to take care of the family, including my mother-in-law."

On the professional front, she was new in the firm in Hong Kong and had to build her career from scratch. But she was persistent and believed "there is an end to all the problems in life". She also credits her family for standing by her through those tough early years.

Her passion for work and persistence have paid off. She is the first woman regional managing partner of Ernst & Young for Hong Kong and Macau and the only woman in the Greater China management team.

Chan says the traditional mindset about a woman in a man's world still exists, but she tackles that by being assertive and confident. "Hong Kong is a very good place for working women. I don't see any glass ceilings in Hong Kong," she says.

Her advice to young career-oriented women is to be self-empowered and to have belief and confidence in themselves. "You can manage a career and family and be true to yourself."

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