MPA Voices: Creating your own Opportunities with an MPA

By the SMU Master of Professional Accounting team

Mondays are a fresh start to each week. They give you a chance to correct the mistakes of the last week, and a new perspective on what to do. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be rolling out a series of MPA stories, which would give a bit of insight into who we really are.

Today, we speak to Ms Cheng Xinhui, a part-time graduate student with the SMU Master of Professional Accounting (MPA) programme. Prior to starting at SMU, she was an Economics lecturer for slightly over 5 years with the Ministry of Education. She shares with us her MPA journey thus far, and the exciting adventures that it has brought her!



From left: Lionel Khoo Ming Jie (SMU LKCSB Year 4 student), Cheng Xinhui, Loo Kee Yuen (London School of Economics) David Balakrishnan (SMU LKCSB Year 3 student)


You used to teach economics, why did you then decide to pursue the MPA programme at SMU?

I was looking for a career switch and the MPA programme provides a professional qualification that would be beneficial for my career planning. I believe that accounting is the foundation of finance. With a strong foundation, one can build anything. I was intrigued by SMU’s unique pedagogy and I like that we have an excellent mix of faculty members in both academia and practice. Many of our professors are industry practitioners and are adept at bringing the real world into the classroom. For example, our Tax Professor, Sum Yee Loong, is recognised as one of the World’s leading tax advisors and there are no tax questions that he can’t answer! He’s practically a walking Singapore Tax Code. Also, I like that my classmates are a diverse bunch and there is so much to learn from them especially during our seminar discussions.

I heard you took part to a recent Merger and Acquisition (M&A) Competition in Hong Kong organised by HSBC! What was the competition about and how was it relevant to your career goals?

The HSBC M&A Case Competition was part of the Asian Investment Banking Conference held annually in Hong Kong. It brings together students from all over the world who are keen in a career in investment banking, as well as current industry practitioners. I am highly fortunate to discover my career goals through the many conversations I have had with our alumni through our the SMU mentoring platform, as well as through my career advisor, Eunice, who is part of SMU’s Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre. Since I am keen in a career in M&A, this competition is certainly relevant to me.

Some students just spend their time focusing on academics and studying, what was it that motivated you to step out of your comfort zone and join this competition?

I count myself lucky as I got to know of this competition via a fellow intern (Thanks, Kee!) during my internship with Deloitte Corporate Finance. Deloitte has a great mentoring culture and much of my corporate finance knowledge was sharpened during my internship with them. The internship also allowed me to meet like-minded people who eventually became my group mates for this competition. I am most glad to meet David Balakrishnan and Lionel Khoo who are from SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business. The competition provided a platform for us to put what we have learnt into independent practice.

Juggling between school and the competition, how was your preparation like?

Honestly, the preparation for the competition was crazy! I was concurrently on another internship then with the ABN AMRO Corporate Finance team (to whom I am thankful for being so supportive and approving my leave for the competition finals) and I could only do heavy duty work on weekends. It was great teamwork and we have certainly learnt a lot from the competition. Thanks, Lionel and Bala, I would totally do this again with you guys!

I am sure it was worth the effort! Do share with us what the experience in Hong Kong was like and what did you gain out of this competition?

It was a great experience pitching to the investment bankers in Hong Kong during our finals! I really enjoyed the adrenaline rush that we had during the pitching process and also having to think on our feet during the Q&A session. We had many takeaways from this experience. It allowed us to get feedback from industry practitioners – who are doing what we hope to be doing in future, in order to learn and improve on our work. More importantly, we also met students from other universities whom we got to learn from during the finals pitching challenge. This would not have been possible for me without the great support in terms of encouragement and sponsorship from MPA programme at the SMU School of Accountancy. I would like to give a special shout out to my programme manager, Eileen Kiara Tan, and of course my programme director, Associate Professor Wang Jiwei. I stand tall on the shoulders of giants.

Before we end, do you have any words of advice for students who are currently in the programme?

Say yes, as much as possible, to every opportunity that comes up (or even better, search/create them for yourself and others!) and then learn how to do it later. Competitions are a great way to fast track your learning – look forward to putting what you’ve learnt into practice and get valuable feedback!


For more information on the MPA, visit our website at or register for one of our upcoming information sessions HERE.