How An SMU Accountancy Degree Paved the Way for a Career in Consultancy

By SMU School of Accountancy Social Media Team 

Accounting is often referred to as the ‘language of business’-given its relevance in a multitude of careers. This is something SMU Accountancy alumnus Rafael Lam can attest to.

Having clinched a position with consulting firm Bain & Company upon graduating from the SMU School of Accountancy in 2010, Rafael has been with the firm since. In July 2022, Rafael was appointed Partner in Insurance and Banking at Bain & Company – making him the first SMU Accountancy graduate to be appointed Partner at a consulting firm.

In the following interview, Rafael shares his career journey and sheds light on how his SMU Bachelor of Accountancy degree set him on this path.


Congratulations on being appointed Partner at Bain & Co! Can you share your thoughts on your appointment?

It is truly an honour.

Consulting was my dream job when I graduated, and I knew from my first day at Bain that I wanted to be a Partner one day. So, to now receive this promotion is a dream come true.


Can you share more on your current role in Bain & Co and the nature of your work?

Bain is a management consulting firm, so we typically support companies and their senior management on topics such as strategy, M&A, transformation, performance improvement, etc.

As a Partner, I typically manage two projects and teams at the same time. My core responsibility is to guide my teams in solving the problem through their analyses and to engage with senior client stakeholders. Outside of projects, I also spend time engaging with previous or potential clients, and leading proposals for potential projects.


Rafael (2nd from left) and his wife (extreme left) with colleagues at Bain at a work event in Bangkok


We understand you have been with Bain & Co since graduation. What are some of the highlights in your career with Bain that has spanned 10 years?

When I was a Consultant, I was given the opportunity to participate in an Analytics project with a global bank, on what we call a case-demand transfer. This was a four-month project based in New York City, and it was an excellent experience! The project was really interesting, and I spent some time exploring the different parts of Manhattan every week as it was my first time in the city. I even managed to attend the US Open during their Labor Day weekend in September.

More recently, I worked with a large global insurer on a soup-to-nuts project to build a health and wellness digital platform. We helped our client develop their strategy, design and build the app, and launch it on app store, all in the span of eight months. This was an experience that crossed between consulting and startup, so it was really unique for me personally. What’s more, I became very good friends with another Bain Manager and SMU alumnus who was working on this project as well!


An accountancy background allows you to explore many careers beyond accounting. Having spent much of your career in consulting, would you agree with this statement?

I believe the broad-based skillset in accounting and management offers a very solid platform to perform well in a variety of roles in any company or industry. I just met with another Accountancy graduate in Hong Kong who is currently the Head of Business Planning in Marketing for a major insurer, and yet another SMU SOA graduate who had gone into Talent Management. This goes to show that this degree does offer multiple career pathways, and it’s not ‘by default’ that an Accountancy graduate must go into an accounting or audit career.

The ‘training’ we get at SMU’s School of Accountancy prepares us well for all sorts of careers, not just from a hard skills angle, but also in soft skills as well.


Rafael (2nd from right, back row) with fellow participants at a case team event


Looking back, how do you think your tertiary journey in SMU School of Accountancy helped you achieve your career goals today?

The Accountancy degree provided me with a solid grasp of financial numbers and management concepts. I recall my Accounting and Tax courses that honed my grasp of financial statements, and the Advanced Management Accounting course that really piqued my interest in management and consulting. Most importantly—and a large part of the reason I applied at SMU back in 2006—SMU’s seminar-style teaching has helped me become more outspoken and confident in the workplace.

My time at the SMU School of Accountancy laid a strong foundation for me to do well in my early years at Bain where I had to execute lots of research and analysis on various industries and companies, and also engage with my team and with clients.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my biggest thanks and appreciation to all the professors and staff at SMU SOA who have helped me get to where I am today.



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