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As a Partner and Asia Pacific Financial Services Tax Leader of PwC with focus on tax advisory, Florence Yip supports the development of asset management industry in Hong Kong. Being a computer science major, Florence emphasizes the importance of having a diversified pool of talent in professional services. Graduates of subjects other than accounting or finance are also welcome to join the field to inject new ideas and energy to the industry.
"I joined the professional services industry by coincidence. I studied Computer Science in the UK but at the end I realised I enjoyed working with people more than machines.” After graduation, she wanted to stay and work in UK and she joined the accounting industry.
"Tax analysis requires great creativity as we focus on the corporates’ outlook and building a better and sustainable future together with clients."
Started as an auditor and then moving on to be a tax specialist in financial services, Florence found herself becoming more and more devoted to the industry. "An audit trainee would often focus on checking historic data and internal control and bringing insights out of those data, a young tax associate could be doing research and analysing tax implications of deals before they happen. When I work with my corporate clients, it requires a lot of creative thinking to see how I can build the future with them and that experience gave me great satisfaction.” She was then determined to develop her career as well as start a family and came back to Hong Kong.
Thanks to China’s economic reform and growth, Florence has provided tax consultations to many international financial institutions’ expansion to China and Chinese corporations’ outbound expansion including corporate restructuring, as well as mergers and acquisitions. She also has extensive experience in providing tax solutions to institutional investor—such as Chinese and foreign banks, insurance companies, pension funds, traditional funds, alternative investment funds, sovereign funds— as well as high-net-worth individuals and family offices.
Florence highlights that the asset management industry in Hong Kong has had a good development in the past 20 years. While many mutual and retail fund houses have been established in Hong Kong, the alternative investment sector such as hedge, venture capital, private equity and real estate funds experienced a very rapid growth in the past 10 years.
Between 2004 and 2014, the number of hedge funds managed by SFC licensed hedge fund managers in Hong Kong increased 7-times. By December 2015, the assets under management in Hong Kong was as high as US$2,230 billion, 68.5% of which capital came from foreign investors. Over the 12 months from March 2015 to March 2016, the number of Hong Kong-domiciled funds increased by 10.4% .
"Hong Kong should reposition itself from a fund management centre to a fund centre."
Florence has been an advocate for developing the asset management market in Hong Kong, especially on the technical aspects leveraging her experience and expertise in the international tax regimes of this industry. After the government implemented offshore funds tax exemption in 2006, the exemption was extended to offshore private equity funds in 2015. The change in policy has effectively stimulated the alternative investment activities in Hong Kong. The introduction of a new structure of "open-ended fund company" passed by the LegCo in May 2016 also helps attract more funds to be domiciled in Hong Kong further.
"Hong Kong can become a fund management centre but personnel is mobile. If Hong Kong can take one step further to become a fund centre like Dublin and Luxembourg, this will create employment opportunities and create long-term benefits to Hong Kong as investment fund vehicles will not easily move away after establishing and registering in a location."
Florence further explains that turning Hong Kong into a fund domicile centre will also benefits the wider financial services industry. It will help increase the demand of talent and create more career opportunities in accounting, banking services, IT, etc.
Tips from Florence
1. Diversified talents
"We welcome graduates not only from accounting, economics, and finance departments, but also from technology, engineering, mathematics, physics, biology, classics, languages, history, geography and others. We look for candidates having the potential to grow with the firm with a strong business sense. In PwC, we emphasize on continuous learning and support our people with customized trainings at all levels. Even partners have to receive continuous trainings and constantly develop themselves. We widen our net of talent because our clients come from different countries and industries as well. We look for a diversified pool of talents with a wide range of academic background and experience."
2. Grasp international trend
"Besides building professional knowledge and understanding local issues, we also need to have a strong sense around the market changes such as local and global tax requirements, regulatory changes and latest technologies. We need to keep ourselves updated with the changes in the international environment and be able to turn those into insights on how Hong Kong and the industry will be affected. I am curious about and like to hear other people's opinions, and my career in professional services brings excitements to me every day as I am able to meet a wide range of people—from clients, colleagues and regulatory authorities.”
Education and Professional Qualifications:
Degree in Computer Science, Imperial College, UK
Members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Chartered Institute of Taxation (U.K.), Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Taxation Institute of Hong Kong
Member of the Executive Committee and Vice Chairman of the Alternative Investments Management Association – Hong Kong Branch (AIMA-HK)
Chairman of tax-subcommittee of AIMA-HK, Technical Committee of Hong Kong Venture Capital and Private Equity Association
Honorary President of Advisory Board, Hong Kong Private Equity Finance Association
Member of Islamic Finance Working Group of the Treasury Markets Association
Convenor of the New Business Committee, Financial Services Development Council
Past President and Treasurer of The Zonta Club – New Territories Chapter, a charitable organization