The maths phobe who became an accountant

Albert Yip FCPA, Head of audit services, Asia, Manulife.

Albert Yip struggled with numbers at school, but then he realised that all the difficult problems were simply a series of smaller questions and answers.

At school Yip was good at every subject – except maths. He hated it. But his determination to overcome this “handicap” has been repeated in everything he does.

“I put in a lot of extra effort and eventually discovered that all difficult problems are comprised of a series of simple questions, and I gradually found that mathematics is a lot of fun, like a game of trivia. If you answer the small questions you will find a solution to the big problems.”

Hong Kong-born Yip has more than 25 years’ experience in corporate finance, internal auditing, risk management, compliance and information security across the Asia-Pacific and the United States. 

Yip found strength in numbers.

Yip found strength in numbers.

 

He heads Audit Services Asia for Manulife, one of the world’s top financial services groups, and leads the internal audit team in Asia of more than 40 audit professionals working across Hong Kong and 11 other markets. 

This son of an opal wholesaler overcame his maths issues to graduate from university with an honours degree in accountancy. He then went looking for a stable job with good prospects, and settled down to build his future in the regional office of Australian bank Westpac – or so he thought.

“I got my first job in banking at a very challenging time. Technology was emerging and it quickly turned the whole financial sector upside down,” says Yip, who opted to transform his career with a second degree in information systems.

To his mind, his embrace of the digital world was like a self-improvement program. He increased in commercial value and personal value through tackling another challenge. Being prepared to change himself paid dividends.

“Identifying a weakness means turning a handicap into a growth opportunity. Marginal return is an economic term. You do something to get a return. It’s a much better return to explore and improve on your weaknesses than your strengths. There’s more growth. I always share this thought when I talk to students,” Yip says.

“Also, if you can accept and explore your weakness, you reduce your fear. And if you can accept your own weakness, it makes you more open-minded and you can more easily accept it in other people, which makes it easier to work with them.

"Identifying a weakness means turning a handicap into a growth opportunity."

“As an accountant, you have to interact with a lot of people, from all disciplines and backgrounds. Traditional accountants were silent workers, managing the ledger books. Today, accountants are agents of change in organisations. They know the operation, they know the people, and they can help manage the relationships.”

Personal interests – fencing, shooting and palaeontology – have also shaped Yip. “I love fencing because it strengthens my body and my mind for my daily challenges. The aggression, the counter-actions, working with another person. These are all good.”

At indoor shooting he relishes the silence, the focus, the need for a cool head, one person and a target. And then there is his fossil collection which prompts holidays hunting for remnants of the past in places such as Cancún.

“Each one is unique, a window into a fascinating world gone by.”

In his dream job at Manulife, it’s the teamwork that he loves. It gives him a platform to deal with different people and cultures – “to learn from, and appreciate, their skills and talents,” he says.

“Teamwork is what I love.”

Career history

2007 – current
Head of audit services, Asia, Manulife

2013
Appointed as deputy chairman, Financial Services Committee, CPA Australia

2004
Director, Financial Reporting and Internal Control Disclosure, Manulife

2001

Vice president, Compliance & Risk Control, Asia Pacific Region, Syndicate Capital

1994
Master of Science in Information Systems, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

1992
Group accountant, Shriro Pacific head office

1988
Accounting officer, Westpac Asia regional headquarters

1985
Honours degree in Accountancy, City University of Hong Kong

This article is from the September 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK magazine.


September 2014
September 2014

September 2014

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