Your career journey before becoming a lecturer
Your career journey before becoming a lecturer
I commenced my career in 1990 with Arthur Andersen-HRM (Management Services) Sdn Bhd as an Associate Consultant. I then served in the audit and business advisory division of Arthur Andersen & Co. between 1990 and 1994. I joined CWS Hygiene Sdn Bhd (“CWS”) as the Finance & Administration Manager in 1994. When the Zuellig Group acquired CWS in 1995, I moved to Zuellig’s Gold Coin Group. I was appointed the Regional Financial Controller of Gold Coin Feedmills (M) Sdn Bhd – the primary operating subsidiary of Gold Coin (Malaysia) Berhad.
In 2006, I joined Engtex Sdn Bhd as the Group Financial Controller and was instrumental in the initial public offering (IPO) of Engtex Group Berhad (Engtex) in 2002. I held several positions in the group – I was appointed as the Personal Assistant (“PA”) to the Group Managing Director (GMD) in the year 2000 and the Joint Company Secretary of Engtex 2002 until I resigned in 2006. I served TH Group Berhad (TH Group) from 2006 to 2010 as the PA to the GMD of TH Group. I was also the Acting Chief Operating Officer of Nilai Medical Centre (a wholly-owned subsidiary of TH Group) in 2010 after the Group was taken private by the controlling shareholders. I then joined TSH Resources Berhad as the General Manager in charge of Strategic Planning and Operations – a position I held until 2012, before becoming an academician.
Description of your current role – what are the important roles you play professionally?
I am a local thoroughbred from the University of Malaya (UM) where I hold a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD.) degree in Credit Management (2010), a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree (2001), and a Bachelor of Accounting (Honours) degree (1990), all from UM. In terms of professional qualifications, apart from MICPA, I am a fellow member of ACCA (UK) and CTIM, respectively, and a member of MIA.
I am currently a Senior Lecturer in the School of Business, Monash University Malaysia. I teach the Auditing & Assurance unit and the Corporate Treasury & Credit Management unit (that I designed and developed, leveraging on the knowledge gained from my PhD journey in credit management).
Equipped with professional qualifications in accounting and a wealth of experience in audit, financial management, and corporate governance, I was invited to sit on the board of several listed companies as an independent non-executive director, safeguarding the minority shareholders’ interest. I serve MICPA as a Council Member and am involved in the Education and Training Committee; Commerce, Industry and Public Sector Committee and the Membership Affairs Committee of the Institute.
What inspired you to take up teaching?
I faced challenges in taking the accounting route as I was from the science stream during my higher school certificate (STPM) education. During my time, not many schools offered accounting as a subject. I needed to take classes outside of school. When I studied accountancy at the University of Malaya (UM), they were also short of accounting lecturers. It was challenging to find accounting lecturers as the remuneration is not attractive as many classes were still conducted in English except for economics subjects. Some of my lectures and tutorial classes were held on weekends or on the weekdays’ evening to fit the part-time lecturers’ availability. That motivated me to return to my alma mater as a part-time lecturer in auditing to fulfil my passion in education after attaining my professional accounting qualification – MICPA. During my two-year stint, I enjoyed teaching and hoped to continue teaching as a second career after my corporate roles. To be an academician in a world-ranking university, I had to pursue a PhD degree. I pursued it on a part-time basis, without sacrificing my corporate career growth – juggling studies with work and raising a family. Two years after completing my PhD and with 22 years of working experience, I left the commercial sector to join Monash University Malaysia.
Your MICPA journey
I joined HRM Consulting Sdn Bhd as an Associate Consultant on 1 April 1990, immediately after completing my final year at UM. Two weeks later, Hanafiah Raslan & Mohamad (HRM) merged with Arthur Andersen & Co. (AA), and Samad & Co. is the original local firm’s name. I stayed in consulting for 6 months before deciding to obtain audit exposure and pursue my MICPA professional qualification. I then joined the audit division, and I spent almost 4 memorable years in AA with my last position as the person-in-charge of AA Kuala Terengganu office. By then, I had completed my MICPA professional qualification and was ready to join the commercial sector.
One of my fondest memories is where my audit team detected financial fraud committed by an outlet manager of an out-of-town fast food outlet. He used his dot-matrix printer to print the bank-in slips by forging the bank’s printout and remitted the forged slips to the head office and siphoned the cash collections. As the uncredited lodgements still appeared in the bank reconciliation after more than two months (which is unusual instead of unpresented cheques that are valid for six months before staled) and suspected something amiss, we sent copies of the bank-in slips to the confirming bank for verifications. The bank responded and confirmed that the printouts were forged, as evidenced by the larger than usual font size used in the forgery. I alerted the CFO and pulled out my audit team from fieldwork for safety reasons until the internal inquiry and the issue was resolved. The outlet manager was dismissed during the internal inquiry, and actions were taken to recover the losses from him. It was a real-life lesson on fraud for the audit team.
Challenges faced as a lecturer, and how you overcome them
Teaching is an honorable and noble profession. The salary of an accounting lecturer is not comparable to accountants’ pay. We need to be passionate about education to be good educators, and monetary reward is not the main criteria. That is why I spent 22 years working and accumulating my savings and my children’s education fund before throwing in the towel to become an academician. Apart from education targets, I need to meet the research targets and the lecturer’s engagement targets. Engagement targets are not an issue for those like me from practice or commercial sector as we can quickly re-establish our contacts and link academia with industry. Academic research is the main challenge for me as I am more well-versed in thought leadership research and article writing. World-ranked universities only recognise publications in top-tier academic journals (A or A* ranked journals). The challenge is to produce sustainable research outputs that can provide new knowledge that closes some gaps in the present body of knowledge. To overcome my academic research challenges, I will typically team up with my fellow colleagues and superiors who are well-versed in academic research or external collaborators in research projects and work on the research based on each member’s expertise areas.
As a lecturer, how has the MICPA qualification & membership helped you in the teaching profession?
Being a member of MICPA, accounting lecturers can get the latest up-to-date resources and accounting and auditing pronouncements and standards through the MICPA website. The technical department of MICPA can be consulted on issues relating to accounting, taxation or auditing. I can also reach out to member firms and other MICPA members and engage them in academia-industry linkage collaborations. If I need assistance in organising guest lectures or workshops or student club activities, I can contact the MICPA secretariat.
Key attributes you have developed/relied on to keep you going strong in the academic profession
In the property industry, the most important factors are location, location, location. In the noble accounting education profession, the essential element is passion in what I do – passionate educator in the subject matter, passion for being at eye-level with students, and passion in delivering the subject! I am here in the academic profession to impart more than two decades of my knowledge and experience to aspiring finance professionals. I hope that the younger generation will be inspired to undertake the same in the future, which keeps me going.
Innovative ideas to share with fellow academicians
Pre-lecture quizzes (weightage of up to 10% of the unit marks) effectively incentivise students to read up and prepare for the coming weekly lecture. Combined with in-lecture and post-lecture exercises, students’ interest will improve.
Individuals and students appreciate group assessments based on real-life cases / data (e.g. market-available data from Bursa Malaysia on public-listed companies or publicly available regional data). Students can see the real-life application of what they have learned.
Selection of group members for group assignment could be better, applying half self-selection and another half determined by the lecturer via balloting, considering diversity and inclusiveness. For example, in four students per group, I will allow them to get their pair/buddy. 2 other members will be allocated through balloting, taking into account gender (female vs male), domiciliary (domestic vs international students), etc. From students’ reflective essays, many appreciate collaborating with some new members and at the same time have a familiar buddy to work with.
Educators should use mnemonic techniques like mind maps using keywords, abbreviations, and acronyms to reduce memorising and encourage more reasoning and application. I use easy-to-remember mnemonics in my auditing subject, and students liked mnemonics very much!
Why do you think students should choose the MICPA Programme?
The MICPA Programme today has transformed vastly compared to my time. Like the legal profession, local practices and regulations are different from one country to another, especially in law and taxation practices. MICPA is the premier Malaysian accounting qualification that was perceived to be very difficult to attain with a low passing rate akin to ICAEW (not available off-shore the UK, during my time). At that time, MICPA courses were not available throughout Malaysia as the number of candidates were only a handful. As such, it would be easier for aspiring accountants to take other professional accountancy qualifications available on the Malaysian shores, with many tuition centres offering such courses mushrooming throughout the country during my time.
Things have changed in the past decade. MICPA has transformed into a more popular chartered accountancy qualification with the tie-up with Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ). MICPA candidates can attain two professional qualifications undergoing the MICPA Programme with CA ANZ conducting the final stage – the Advanced Stage Examination (except for the taxation paper based on Malaysian laws) concurrently in three countries – Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia under their CA Programme. Using the CA ANZ comprehensive online self-directed learning platform, candidates can study for the exam wherever they are. In Malaysia, we still have colleges providing tuition classes to supplement the Programme. The open-book exams with the availability of education support in Malaysia elevates the passing rate of MICPA Programme to 70% level instead of approximately 20% during my time! It is not that the standard of the examination is brought lower now but it is the availability of study guides, learning resources, and exam guides that are available online with the advancement of technology that made study easier for aspiring accountants. Getting two qualifications with the MICPA Programme – Certified Public Accountant (CPA) of Malaysia and CA ANZ – which is part of the Global Accounting Alliance (GAA) – an alliance of the world’s top CA and CPA institutes speak for itself. MICPA members enjoy the gateway to GAA through CA ANZ. Unlike other professional accounting qualifications, the MICPA – CA ANZ Programme is a postgraduate qualification. Without a doubt, it should be the first choice for Malaysian graduates that aspire to become a qualified CPA in Malaysia. I can vouch for it as my eldest daughter enrolled herself in the MICPA Programme immediately after completing her degree, majoring in accounting in December 2020 at Monash University Malaysia. My second child, a few years younger, is also aspiring to attain the dual qualification.
What is one mistake you witness teachers making more frequently than others?
The one mistake that I see many accounting educators make is delivering their subjects, not at the same “eye-level” with their students. Borrowing the philosophy of meeting the “eye-level” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8hw_7wOGtM) of each student by South Korean Daekyo Co. Ltd’s that owns the franchise of the Eye-Level learning centres throughout the world, educators must ensure that students can comprehend the subject matter at their level.
For example, Auditing and Assurance is a new subject for all undergraduates in accounting as it is not a subject of their pre-university education. Just explaining the principles and concepts of auditing and getting the students to do their reading or self-directed learning of auditing text, pronouncements, guidelines, and standards would not lead them to a good understanding and mastery of this subject. Many will be overwhelmed by this subject that requires understanding professional scepticism, ethics and independence; audit assertions, objectives and procedures, etc.
Students needed to be motivated to undertake this unit with exciting case studies, easy-to-remember acronyms, and exposure to audit applications in real-life companies in their group assignments. Academicians need to be passionate about their subjects. I always console students who find difficulty learning audit and assurance subjects that they have yet been able to “catch the ball”. They will appreciate this subject once they have “warmed up” and are back on their feet again.
What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better teacher?
In the New Normal, educators could use massive open online courses (MOOCs) like Coursera, edX, Udemy, etc., to get acquainted with the subject matter and learn how the lessons are structured and delivered in an online environment. Most MOOCs are available free of charge and some are as cheap as USD9.99 per course for lifetime access during their promotional period.
Accounting and consulting firms’ websites also provide loads of contemporary resources and thought leadership articles that are more current than textbooks. It will take a few years to get books updated, and by then, they become outdated again. However, texts are important as they set out the theoretical framework and cover the fundamental concepts, theories, and practices but needed to be supplemented by up-to-date resources provided by the accountancy fraternity in their websites, practice workshops, and guest lectures by industry experts.
One of our MICPA members, Johnny Yong, who was with IFAC based in New York, recommended me the Centre for Financial Reporting Reform (CFRR) website at www.cfrr.worldbank.org. This site provides workshops and teaching materials for audit training for trainers available for use.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, apart from the above websites that offer accounting and business-related knowledge and information, educators should update themselves with the knowledge, skills, settings, and technology required to deliver online, hybrid or physical courses as a result of the rapid transformation in the education industry in this challenging time.