By SMU School of Accountancy Social Media Team
SMU Accountancy graduate, Marcus Ng, is no stranger to success. But few realise that failure was once his companion as well.
In December 2017, Marcus aced all six modules of his CPA Australia Program, achieving the top score of High Distinction for all modules. In 2013, he had also topped his graduating cohort to emerge the DBS Valedictorian for the School of Accountancy (SoA) as well as the SMU CIRCLE Award winner from SoA.
We recently caught up with Marcus, and learnt that his journey has not always been this smooth. Marcus, who is currently Senior Associate (International Tax) with the Ministry of Finance, shares his story below.
Q: Congratulations on receiving High Distinction in all six modules of the CPA Australia Professional Exams! Can you share with us your thoughts on achieving this impressive feat?
M: I would like to share this achievement with my family, colleagues and friends, who supported me on this journey. Kudos also to SMU and my professors who provided me with the skill sets required to be an accounting professional.
Q: Can you tell us your reasons for taking up the CPA Australia Program?
M: I was fortunate to be a recipient of the CPA Australia CPA Programme Award for Top Bachelor of Accountancy Graduate in 2013. As part of the Award, I was provided with the opportunity to undertake the CPA Programme and this has been a rewarding journey for me.
Firstly, I managed to revise difficult accounting concepts from the well-prepared materials provided by CPA Australia. The materials are revised frequently so that it is kept relevant.
Secondly, during the events organised by CPA Australia, I managed to network with CPA professionals from various industries, ranging from accounting firms to banks to shipping firms. This was a good opportunity for me to sharpen my networking skills and learn more about how accountants can contribute to other industries. I have also made new friends during these events.
Lastly, I was able to keep relevant by participating in the various training programmes organised by CPA Australia. For example, I attended the CPA Congress in October 2017, where many thought leaders shared on the various business trends today—including robotics, fintech, etc.
Marcus speaking at the CPA Congress 2017
Q: As DBS Valedictorian for School of Accountancy in 2013, few would expect that your initial journey into SoA to be a bumpy one. Could you share more about how you eventually overcame these difficulties to graduate as Valedictorian?
M: After my GCE A-Levels, I knew that I wanted to pursue Accountancy after hearing the experiences of my friends and seniors who were accountants. However, I failed to enter into the Accountancy programme for all three local universities due to my unsatisfactory A-Level results. I persevered and continued to apply for Accountancy during my National Service. I was grateful to be given a place in the SMU Bachelor of Accountancy (BAcc) Programme on my third try!
The following four years in SMU were definitely challenging. The curriculum was fast-paced and each semester only lasted for 15 weeks. In the short 15 weeks, you had to grasp the complex accounting concepts and understand foreign accounting terms (e.g. debit, credit, accrual, etc.). You also had to juggle readings, projects and examinations!
I was fortunate to have met good friends and professors during my SMU journey. My friends and I would take modules together and help each other with the course materials and projects. This definitely made the learning more fun and enjoyable. We also participated in non-academic activities together. For example, we volunteered our services for an Overseas Community Service Project to Sikkim, India; and through this experience, we forged closer friendships with one another. In addition, the professors in SMU are passionate about teaching and are always available to assist students!
Marcus receiving his graduation awards in 2013
Q: Would you be able to share with us the biggest challenge that you faced as a full-time employee pursuing a professional qualification and how you overcame it?
M: My biggest challenge was balancing work and study. Each CPA term was approximately two and a half to three months and this meant that there was very little time to prepare for each module. As a new staff, I was still adapting to the new job environment and, at the same time, I had to find time to study for the CPA Programme—which meant weekday nights and weekends. However, the challenge was worth it! I remember that I was working on a client’s case with complex financial instrument transactions that involved FRS 39 and IFRS 9—the horror of many SoA students while taking the ‘Advanced Financial Accounting’ course. Fortunately, my revision for the ‘Financial Reporting’ module for the CPA Australia Programme enabled me to refer to the easy-to-follow study guides and notes for a quick refresher on this topic!
In addition, the SMU BAcc Programme is rigorous, and the Accounting Core courses cover a wide range of topics, which include financial accounting, management accounting, audit, taxation, etc.
Given the quality and academic rigour of the SMU BAcc programme, I noticed that most of the CPA Australia content had already been covered in my undergraduate classes. This meant that I was able to self-study the CPA Australia materials easily and did not require additional tuition or preparatory classes to prepare for the exams.
Q: Any advice for fresh graduates keen to pursue a similar route?
M: Persevere! There will be times when you wonder why you put yourself through this and doubt whether you actually need a professional qualification. If given a chance to choose again, I would still say ‘YES’ and take up a professional qualification. This is because CPA Australia is an internationally-recognised qualification and has opened doors for me. I am sure it will do the same for you!
Keen to take the next step with SMU? Join our SMU Bachelor of Accountancy programme today.