Accountants are more than just tax and audit

Alumnus Sebastian Joseph Widodo (class of 2013) is currently a Senior Associate with the Banking Governance, Risk and Controls unit of Pricewaterhouse Coopers Singapore. He sheds some light on what it means to be a certified Accountant.

Sebastian giving a speech at his Commencement in 2013

I am a Chartered Accountant of Singapore and I am the first batch of accountants who earn their CA (Singapore) through the Singapore Qualification Programme. I am currently in the process of obtaining my Certified Internal Auditor qualification.

My day-to-day work include providing internal audit related services to financial institutions and assisting our clients to improve their risk management and governance process.

One thing that I really love about my job is no two days are the same, literally. We spend most of our time at our clients’ premises and have the chance to interact with various stakeholders to understand their business objectives, key risks that keep them awake at night. Through these working sessions we develop solutions that can assist them in managing these risks either through an assurance or consulting related services.

Sebastian (right) with his project mates, from one of the many presentations done in School

My responsibilities include assisting our financial services clients with internal audit related works (e.g. executing the internal audit plan, assisting the Internal Audit Department of our client with a specific project). I also provide consulting services to client to assist them in complying with the latest rules and regulations released by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

There are also opportunities where I am part of a team that works together with the Board of Directors to enhance the Board’s governance practices. Most recently, I was task to provide assurance service to a financial institution to produce an independent assurance reports on their internal controls.

I have friends who ask why I decided to go into accounting. For me it was an easy decision. Accountancy is probably the most established profession in the world and it opens doors to various career paths. As an accountant, we are trained with various skills that are relevant to every business out there. There is so much that we, as accountants can contribute to society. Our versatility, business insights, and stature as a profession are greatly sought after in the corporate workplace.

Feeling proud after a case presentation

Some people have the wrong perception that accountants can only do work specific to accounts preparation, tax and audit. While these are still the key roles that accountants play today, these are not the only roles. For example, for myself, I specialise in governance, risk and control aspects of a business. This is an emerging role where accountants can make a great contribution to the business. I have also seen a lot of successful bankers, businessmen, entrepreneurs, and civil servants who are accountants by training.

Being an accountant can be a very demanding profession at times. The hours can be long and the deadlines are always tight. Other times, the project might not be as exciting or you come across challenging clients. But there is no substitute to hard work and there is no easy way to success. So keep on persevering and don’t give up easily when things get tough.

Jamming with the NUS Angklung Ensemble

I strongly believe that you should never do something because “the money is good”. Nor should you do something because “everyone seems to be doing this”. Most of us will spend about 30-40 years of our lives working. So it is very important that we do things that we are passionate about, that we are good at, and a great bonus if it creates value to society.

NUS Business School is a great place to learn about business, about yourself and also about life (really!). In School, we have plenty of opportunities to work with others as a team, either in a project work or CCAs. Team work skill is a very important skill to have because no matter how capable we are, there is only so much that we can achieve without various help and involvements from other stakeholders. Hence, it is crucial that we can work well with others and manage other stakeholders accordingly.

I had the most enriching four years there and I am very grateful to be an alumni of this great institution.

For more information about the BBA programme, please visit http://bba.nus.edu/.

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