Sharman Arumugam splits his working time between two very different jobs, so it seems only fitting that his leisure time also encompasses a range of pursuits.
Sharman Arumugam FCPA is at his happiest exploring the depths of the ocean in far-flung locations – diving off remote sites, from Indonesia’s Komodo Island to unspoilt areas around Papua New Guinea.
It’s a complete contrast to his busy career in public practice and allows him to recharge his batteries.
Arumugam wears two director hats – about 60 per cent of his time is spent with the mid-sized public accounting practice SCS Global, where he oversees a team helping Japanese companies enter and exit Malaysia. The remaining 40 per cent is devoted to Rimbun Capital, a Malaysian corporate recovery firm that specialises in breathing life into abandoned housing projects.
“I love working for different types of clients,” says Arumugam. “It provides me with variety.... project-based jobs and a considerable amount of mental stimulation.”
Arumugam cut his teeth with Arthur Andersen in Malaysia, where he spent seven years. He then moved into a role with one of Malaysia’s largest utility companies and was sent for stints in India, Sri Lanka and Washington. At the tender age of 29, he landed a chief financial officer role.
“There was a steep learning curve,” he says. “It was one of the most important years of my life as a CPA. I had a large team of finance people to handle, but at the same time my CEO was busy travelling and every time he left the country he put me in charge of the operation.”
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A corporate merger elevated Arumugam to group finance director of 12 companies within the SIH Group. However, he hankered to go back to public practice, and he also wanted to raise his family in his home country.
That was 12 years ago and Arumugam hasn’t looked back.
One of the biggest challenges he now faces is retaining staff in a tight talent market. “There is a shortage of good accountants,” he says. “Our public practice people... are easily absorbed into the other industries because we train our people well.”
Malaysian talent is also in high demand, because many workers speak several languages and can easily move to other countries. “China, India and Vietnam are exploding,” says Arumugam.
When he’s not working, Arumugam spends time with his wife, also a FCPA, and his two children, aged 14 and 12. He also pounds the pavement, running about 60km a week to train for marathons.
“I have been doing half marathons for the past five or six years,” he says. “I had no gumption to do a full marathon until recently, but I decided I should bite the bullet.”
One piece of advice
“Do something new every year, stay relevant and always try to add value in the things you do. These are three simple steps to be a better accountant and a better person.”
Take charge of your own career CFO grace Lee Hwee Ling