Several employees at the local office of global accounting giant PwC fear there are recruiting practices in the pipeline that could load them up with work

Accountants fear idea of interns in numbers game
Staff reporter
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Several employees at the local office of global accounting giant PwC fear there are recruiting practices in the pipeline that could load them up with work.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, it is claimed, is lining up fresh graduates as interns next year, paying them just HK$7,000 a month under a one-year probation deal.

The “Big Four” accountancy firms, including PwC, now offer HK$12,000- HK$13,000 per month to graduates who undergo a three-month probation period.

“Long working hours prompted many to leave the firm after three to four years,” an accountant at PwC told The Standard. “So we rely on new blood – people who are committed and can perform well.”

But “experience tells us most interns don’t take their work seriously,” the accountant added, so hiring more of them would mean additional responsibilities for existing staff.

Another PwC staffer said an influx of interns would likely “worsen the brain-drain and succession problems.” And if PwC adopted such practices, rivals KPMG, Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young would surely follow suit.

Presently, recruits who work for more than a year at the Big Four are rewarded with a 20-30 percent pay rise. Within three to four years and if they pass exams, they can earn up to HK$40,000 per month. About 60 percent of 1,000 graduates who major in accounting are believed to join the industry every year. Each of the Big Four take 100 graduates while a middle-tier firm could hire up to 50, offering HK$11,000-HK$12,000.

A partner at an accounting firm said he was not surprised by the idea of such a scheme as many students and those working for middle-tier firms are keen to join the Big Four. He also believed such a recruiting practice would cut costs. Indeed, said Chris Wong Wo- cheung, a partner in middle-tier accounting firm RSM Nelson Wheeler, competition is intense. “With less initial public offering activities in recent years, the Big Four also compete for mid-size deals, and fees have not been increased for some time,” he said.

But Susanna Chiu Lai-kuen, a former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, doubts PwC would try such a scheme with interns as it could threaten its reputation.

Local offices of PwC did not respond to queries on staffing plans.

A survey released by CPA Australia at the end of April found that 20 percent of the 350 accountants polled worked more than 60 hours a week, and 45 percent said they were eager to find a new job in the next six months that offered a better life balance, pay and prospects.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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