Date posted: 8/11/2018 4 min read

Decoding the business landscape in Asia

Accountants must bring a unique value proposition to seize immense China opportunities

In Brief

  • Significant opportunities are arising in China and ASEAN countries
  • Accountants need a clear strategy and value proposition to succeed
  • DFAT is working with professional services to penetrate Asia

Marco Carlei, CEO, ShineWing International.
Kon Yin Tong, President, ASEAN Federation of Accountants.
John Donnelly, Director Professional Services, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Zhang Ke, Chairman, ShineWing.

Accountants have significant opportunities in the fast-growth markets of China and ASEAN but must bring a unique value proposition and build local cultural understanding if they are to succeed.

Marco Carlei, CEO, ShineWing International, says China's One Belt One Road initiative particularly is creating major opportunities for the accounting profession.

The opportunity is not just servicing the primary industries involved in construction and infrastructure, but also servicing other professions such as architects and financial services.

"Each of these industries will require the support of our profession," he says. "But at the same time, the support they will be requiring won't necessarily be compliance related. They will require advisory services."

Marco Carlei
Marco Carlei, Managing Director - ShineWing International.

"The opportunities [in China] are immense but there are also challenges. There are going to be language issues and cultural differences." He says accountants also have an obligation to address corruption as individuals and firms.

Carlei says breaking into the Chinese market is no different to breaking into a new market.

"But I wouldn't do so unless you have a really unique value proposition," he says. "Those that have failed have taken the same 'me-to' approach which is easy to replicate and where there are few barriers to entry."

The Chinese market is very competitive, Carlei says, and accountants and businesses looking to operate there need a clear strategy. "You need to have a really good understanding of what your international strategy is, particularly your China strategy."

The opportunities [in China] are immense. But there are also challenges as well.
Name of quotee here Marco Carlei, CEO, ShineWing International

Kon Yin Tong, President, ASEAN Federation of Accountants, says there are also significant opportunities for Australian businesses and accounting firms in ASEAN countries, particularly servicing small to medium enterprises (SMEs).

ASEAN countries encompass a population of 650 million – making it the world's third-largest region – and the region's population is growing at 5.9% per annum.

He says that some 99% of businesses in ASEAN countries are SMEs, compared with about 60-70% in Australia. "I don't think we are helping SMEs enough," he says. "If SMEs do well, then ASEAN accountants do well."

Koh Yin Tong
Koh Yin Tong, President - ASEAN Federation of Accountants.

"Australian accountants are good at dealing with and helping SMEs," Kon adds. "I think we need some of that expertise. We probably need a bit more external help in that sense."

John Donnelly, Director Professional Services, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, says the Australian Government through DFAT's Professional Services Recognition unit is helping professional services firm enter the Asian markets under various trade agreements.

He notes that professional services generate $A5.2 billion of export revenue and is now Australia’s third-largest services export behind education and tourism.

Donnelly says that for accountants, many skills, such as bookkeeping and business management, are common across countries, but there are issues around license to practice that need to be overcome given the requirements in different countries.

Donnelly says DFAT is signing Mutual Recognition Agreements with Pakistan and Sri Lanka at WCOA in Sydney, and these will increase the opportunities for practising accountants.

Zhang Ke, Chairman, ShineWing, says emerging markets have become a very important part of the global economy. But while they offer opportunities, the broader profession faces major challenges as client demands change and new technology is introduced.

Zhang Ke
Zhang Ke, Chairman - ShineWing.

"As far as accounting profession we are short of confidence, especially auditors," he says.

"We don't know in future whether we still need auditors. Even if we do need auditors who will be the auditors. Will it be IT companies or the government regulatory bodies?"

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