,APAC

Finance experts must embrace technology to deliver services, says BDO exec

Technology brings efficiencies and delivers better results in a shorter time

Bonnie Tham heads the people agenda in BDO in Malaysia, where she assists the management committee in strategising and managing human resources, finance, corporate office, business development/marketing and administration to support and sustain business needs and goals.

Prior to this role, Tham was an executive director in the same company and was involved in advisory to internal audit reviews, enterprise risk management reviews, corporate governance reviews, corporate recovery and restructuring, financial due diligence assistance and forensic reviews.

In her over 18-year experience in client service, she has served in key industries including retail, oil & gas, logistics and insurance, property, construction and engineering, utilities, and hospitality. She is also a fellow member of Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales and a member of Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Malaysian Institute of Accountants and ASEAN CPA.

As a member of the judges’ panel in the Malaysia Management Excellence Awards at the Singapore Business Review, Tham shares her thoughts on the key criteria for selecting the programme winners, what it takes to be an accounting professional in an increasingly digital economy, and climbing the career ladder.

With accounting as the foundation of your career, how does this expertise align with your role as Head of People and Support?

Being a trained Chartered Accountant with more than 18 years of client servicing experience has placed me in a unique position to be a credible business partner in driving and supporting the human capital needs of the business units and service lines. My experience as a Chartered Accountant and a partner in the Advisory service line has equipped me with a deep understanding of managing and balancing business needs and talent needs. It has also enabled me to guide and mentor young professional accountants as they rise in their careers.

As a financial advisory and audit professional, what values, attributes, or best practices have you lived by which helped you rise in your career?

Ethics, integrity, and professional behaviour are fundamental values I live by. These values promote trust with the people I engage and work with, as building trust is so very important in the field of professional services. Additionally, I live by having a growth mindset in everything I do, both professionally and personally. Taking up challenges as opportunities for growth has been a catalyst in my career.

As a woman, did you experience any gender prejudices or obstacles in your career and how did you conquer them?

Throughout my career, I am truly blessed to have been guided by great leaders who are fair and equal. I did not experience any gender prejudices in my career and I felt that I have been given equal opportunities as I rose in my career. I have always stood by the principle that if I want to be given equal opportunity, I must first demonstrate that I am capable of doing the job as well as (if not better) someone of the opposite gender.

At this stage in my life, balancing work and family commitments can be quite challenging. (I have two young children). This was further emphasised during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. I greatly appreciate the understanding and flexibility given to me by the firm in managing my work and family. And of course, big thanks to my very supportive husband who helped in sharing the family chores at home.

What would you advise future accounting and finance professionals to help them advance in an increasingly digital world?

We are in the digital era and the pace of change with technology is ever increasing. To become better accountants and finance professionals, we have to embrace technology in a big way in delivering our work and services. Technology will not replace accountants, but the use of technology will help accountants to be more effective and efficient and deliver better results in a shorter time. This is the future of accountancy. My advice to accounting and finance professionals is to continuously upskill yourself with digital know-how and keep up-to-date with technology.

As a judge in the Malaysia Management Excellence Awards, what key criteria are you considering in selecting the winners?

As a judge, I would look for leaders who demonstrate the following:

(a) Leaders who set winning cultures in their organisation

(b) Leaders who create a vision for their teams- Ability to link to an aspirational purpose that inspires people to think bigger and find meaning in their work, especially during difficult times or change.

(c) Leaders who are relevant.- In today’s VUCA world, this means leaders who embrace technology, innovation and sustainability.

(d) Leaders who successfully lead their team through changes

(e) Leaders who embrace diversity and inclusion and actively behave in ways that make people feel valued, included, and respected.

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