Feature Stories


Synergy in Success

The KPMG-HKUST internship program reflects a long-term partnership and auditing advances in the digital era.

The HKUST Business School has agreed to an exciting, new collaboration with "Big-Four" professional services firm KPMG, and no wonder. First, HKUST graduates have a long record of success at KPMG, and vitally, major players in the audit, tax and advisory industry are recruiting an increasing number of graduates with data-handling skills as their sector continues to be transformed by developments in digital technology.

“KPMG’s most important asset is our people and we invest a lot in them,” says Ms Ivy Cheung, KPMG’s Head of Audit, Hong Kong. “Even before they join us, while they are still undergraduates, we have a structured internship program to get them ready for their careers.”

As part of its drive to nurture accounting and business analytics talent, KPMG will offer a number of internships via its University Collaboration to those HKUST MSc Accounting program students who are enrolled in the new Accounting Analytics concentration.

“With its talented pool of students, HKUST is the ideal choice for this collaboration,” Ivy explains. “We have confidence in HKUST’s programs and graduates, and those graduates who have joined KPMG have a track record of performing very well.”

A changing industry

KPMG’s work was traditionally more manual, but new technology enables it to process vast volumes of data, Ivy says. Now, instead of a manual sampling check, 100 per cent of accounting entries can be verified.

“With the consent of the client, we can pull all the journal entries into the system and key in some sort of search criteria, such as for abnormal items," she says. "Then, with one click, reports can be generated, identifying all the audit exceptions or outliers.”

This means KPMG can now provide crucial services in the way the data is interpreted, and then formulated into workable solutions for clients.

“We need people who are business- and data-analytically savvy, who have the critical thinking skills required to solve problems,” Ivy says. “The technology only generates reports based on the criteria you set, but the way you analyze and use the report, to formulate relevant and actionable plans for your client is what’s most important.”

KPMG has recruited graduates with a non-accounting major for the past decade, and this group now makes up around 40 percent of the firm’s intake.

Internship structure

The first batch of five paid HKUST interns are expected to join KPMG in December 2018, and Ivy expects the number to grow as the program evolves.

“Our internship program normally lasts for one or two months, and gives them a chance to apply what they’ve learned in the ‘real world’ of business,” she says.

KPMG will offer the students both technical and soft-skills training. “The first topic we cover in our internship programs is how to live our KPMG values. This is fundamental to the quality of our people and our services. We believe in imparting good values to create great leaders in the society. These values mainly focus on integrity, honesty, and the like, which are of the upmost importance in our firm and our profession. We then help our participants gradually build professional knowledge, bridging what they have learned at university to practical applications,” Ivy says.

Once orientated, they will have the opportunity to join either the audit, tax or advisory departments, as data analytical tools are used across all functions. Here they will get the chance to work directly with the company’s clients across different industries.

The interns will also be able to work with the KPMG Digital Ignition (KDi) Centre in Nanjing, a software development and support hub for the company and its clients. Significant investments have been made in the KDi Centre, which is part of a global initiative that also involves alliances with IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Blue Prism.

The students will not be left to sink or swim in their internships, Ivy says.

“When an intern joins the program, we assign a buddy to them, to answer day-to-day questions," she says. "They will also have a mentor, a more experienced professional.”

Though the internship is relatively short, the undergraduates will still gain insights into the professional life of an auditor, tax expert, or even an advisor, and help them decide if this is a career path they want to take, Ivy says. Even when the program is over, interns can still ask their mentors about career opportunities or anything else, she adds.

A broader partnership

HKUST’s whole MSc Accounting cohort will also benefit from the KPMG collaboration. The students will be able to enter a data analytics case competition sponsored by KPMG, and also apply for a place in a global case contest. The company's executives will also share industry insights and knowledge with the students.

“It will be good to give the students some of KPMG’s real life examples, to illustrate how things work in the business world,” Ivy says, adding that she values the closer links being forged between HKUST and KPMG.

This new collaboration is important to both sides, Ivy explains. “Like our profession, the universities are evolving as well," she says. "They understand the need to revamp their programs to meet the future needs of the business world.”

Real-life learning opportunities

The Department of Accounting at the HKUST Business School has for many years provided students with an interest in accounting a prime opportunity to study with a highly recognized accounting curriculum. The programs and courses designed by the Department have nurtured not only professional accountants, but also many business talents for Hong Kong and beyond.

“Our graduates are amongst the most competitive and desirable employees in the global market”, says Professor Tony Shieh, Academic Director of MSc Program in Accounting (MSAC). “It attests to their personal quality and the practical and rigorous curriculum that we design and respond to the evolving needs in the industry.”

“Data analytics is changing the way accounting professionals perform their jobs and public accountants provide services. With the new concentration of our MSAC program in Accounting Analytics starting from 2019, our students will be able to further enhance their skills and knowledge in data technology,” he adds.

Professor Shieh thanks for the new collaboration with KPMG, which provides students with access to professionalism and more practical knowledge on recent developments.