Those who can, teach

 Teo has negotiated a deal that leaves him free for six months and working full-time for the other six | Photo: Mark Teo

Singapore’s former deputy auditor-general, Teo Chee Khiang FCPA, has swapped his government desk for a lectern.

When he retired four years ago, after 18 years as Singapore’s deputy auditor-general, Teo Chee Khiang still had a lot to give to his profession.

But after 35 years with the auditor-general’s department, where often he was the bearer of unwelcome news, he needed a break.

“I didn’t want to jump into something that was full-time,” Teo explains.

There was the potential to work a few days each week but that would have made following his shared passion for travel with his wife [she is also retired], very difficult.

Instead, Teo has negotiated a deal that leaves him free for six months of the year and working full-time for six months of the year as a professor and lecturer at the National University of Singapore’s Business School.

It’s a perfect balance, he says, and shows just how broad the options for older professionals are.

He wishes that more employers would do likewise for retirees like him.

“During the six months I go down to the office every day and teach, read, do research, and then it is full-time work,” he says.

“It gives me the flexibility to do some longer-term travelling and that gives much more all-round satisfaction. It’s a good arrangement.”

Since stepping down as Singapore’s most senior CPA-qualified government auditor, Teo has travelled with his wife to most parts of the world, criss-crossing from Europe through Asia.

In between, he finds time to bond with his young grandson, who is just shy of his second birthday.

"Auditing is never a very pleasant profession - you tend to look at things quite negatively, especially for a government auditor." – Teo Chee Khiang FCPA, University of Singapore

"It is a time of relaxing and refreshing and recharging," Teo says with obvious enjoyment.

Switching to lecturing wasn’t a difficult move as for many years he had been involved with training some of the 250 staff at Singapore’s auditor-general’s department.

He jokes, too, that at least people don’t want to cross the street when they see him coming now.

“Auditing is never a very pleasant profession – you tend to look at things quite negatively, especially for a government auditor. They call it professional scepticism,” he says.

“The auditor in some ways has a pretty thankless job in a sense that when things are not seriously wrong – and you point out control weaknesses and procedures that are not complying with requirements – people think that you are nitpicking and that you are not helping in the overall goals and efficiency of the organisation.

"But this noncompliance would give plenty of opportunities to carry out frauds, and when that happens they say: ‘Why didn’t you point them out?’ or ‘Why didn’t you bring them up?’. That is always the dilemma that we face. Teaching is a much more pleasant experience because the students sort of look up to you.”

Through his students, Teo feels that he has the opportunity to influence the future of his profession in Singapore.

"It’s really satisfying to know you are able to pass on the knowledge to another generation and that’s good. I feel quite satisfied to do that and make that little contribution,” he says.

Career history

2012 – present
Professor (Practice), Department of Accounting, National University of Singapore

2006
Became a fellow member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

2004
Became a fellow member of CPA Australia

1992 – 2010
Deputy auditor-general, Singapore

1987 – 1992
Assistant auditor-general, Government Audit, Auditor-General’s Office Singapore

1984 – 1987
Director Government Audit, Auditor-General’s Office Singapore

1979 – 1984
Director Investigations & Research, the Audit Department, Singapore

1979
Became a fellow member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore

1975 – 1979
Auditor, the Audit Department, Singapore

1973
Bachelor of Accountancy (Hons), University of Singapore

This article is from the November 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK.