Baker Tilly Hong Kong offers a clear employee development programme and a friendly environment JOINING A LARGE international auditing firm would be a dream come true for many fresh graduates. However, there are those who would opt for a smaller firm as a base for better training, a clearer career path and, most importantly, a warm and friendly office environment. 'At Baker Tilly Hong Kong we have something very unique to offer. Our friendly, learning-oriented culture offers excellent career development opportunities to our staff and newcomers. 'We believe in a work-life balance, so we put a lot of effort into staff scheduling to ensure they are not seriously overworked, which is a common problem in our industry,' said Janet Bibi Ferreira, director of human resources and marketing. 'Our client profile is different to that of the big international players who have blue-chip clients. But we understand what it takes to attract well-qualified individuals,' Ms Bibi Ferreira said. Besides being competitive with remuneration packages, company management strongly believes that an effective staff retention programme designed with various industry training programmes is crucial for the benefit of the company and to prepare individuals for career advancement. Last year, the company conducted more than 30 outsourced training schemes ranging from personal development and management to technical training about Hong Kong accounting and tax standards. These also featured some high-end training content, such as Sarbanes-Oxley compliance and Viztopia-Audit programme training - the internal audit practices for the American (Viztopia) and Australian (Audit) standards. People who want to learn or improve their Putonghua language skills can take advantage of the in-house class. Ms Bibi Ferreira plans to arrange a similar number of training opportunities next year. 'This is what I mean about retention programmes. To keep our people attuned to what's happening in the industry we will develop in-house training that focuses on needs so they are kept abreast of what's going on in the market. We want each individual to know that the company cares,' Ms Bibi Ferreira said. 'And the regular appraisal system can obviously help us address the strengths and weaknesses of our staff and design in-house training to help them meet the standard and groom them accordingly.' Open communication is another area the company advocates. According to Ms Bibi Ferreira, auditing and tax work was about teamwork. Having an open office plan helped to encourage the team spirit and create close communication among colleagues, as opposed to isolated cubicles, which can create individualism and hamper efficiency. 'We find the overall strategy has proven effective in helping staff work smarter and improve efficiency,' she said. The company has a positive outlook for next year. It plans to recruit about 40 fresh graduates and 20 individuals with three to four years' industry background. The company's total headcount is now 200. 'To cope with continuing expansion we are recruiting staff at all levels, particularly in audit and tax. We welcome applicants from local and overseas markets, experienced or with no experience,' Ms Bibi Ferreira said. Although people with strong backgrounds are needed, fresh graduates are the centre of recruitment for the company. Malcolm Glass, who set up Baker Tilly Hong Kong in 1977, said: 'Every company needs experienced staff to keep the operation running with minimal supervision and we are no exception. 'In this business we find that fresh graduates with the relevant academic background can learn fast, and their eager-to-know attitude helps them absorb whatever comes along like a sponge.' When he set up the company Mr Glass saw the opportunity to offer audit and general advice services to SMEs. The company quickly grew from a partner and assistant to two partners and 30 staff in five years. Through a merger, the company became part of Baker Tilly International, the eighth-largest accountancy network worldwide in revenue. AT A GLANCE Baker Tilly Hong Kong provides a full spectrum of audit, accounting, taxation and secretarial services to SMEs. Regular staff training and appraisal helps improve staff performance and groom them accordingly. The company plans to hire 40 fresh graduates and 20 experienced people next year to cope with expansion.