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Companies should improve operation and distribution channels, says Crowe HK partner

Charbon Lo emphasised that organisations ready to adapt and innovate in the ‘new normal’ are bound to succeed in such a volatile market.

Crowe (HK) CPA Partner Charbon Lo is an established professional with over 15 years of experience in the audit and finance fields. His main focus of services includes audit and assurance, initial public offerings (IPO), and due diligence.

He also has extensive experience in handling audit engagements for small and medium enterprises, as well as Hong Kong Mainboard and GEM Board-listed clients in the industries of property development, catering services, biopharmaceutical products, cosmetics, food manufacturing, sustainable forest management, gaming, and entertainment, amongst others, with industries in different countries including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, and Brazil. 

Lo is currently a member of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, an associate of the Taxation Institute of Hong Kong, and a Certified Tax Adviser in the same area. His other commitments and community involvement include being an Expert Advisor of Accountancy in the Ministry of Finance of Guangdong Province, as well as a Council Member of the Institute of Accountants Exchange.

He believes that to remain competitive, companies need to reposition themselves to meet the changing environment and customers’ needs. He also noted that the management of companies should improve their operations and distribution channels to adapt to the changing consumer behaviour under the “new normal.”

As part of the esteemed panel of judges in this year’s HKB International and National Business Awards, Lo has provided insights for businesses in embracing digital transformation and its essence in succeeding in the modern world.

What sectors in the market do you think are bound for success in the current environment?

Under the current COVID-19 pandemic and significant political risks around the globe, customer behaviour has changed significantly, and traditional industries such as retail, food and beverages, fashion, trading, etc. are facing huge challenges in recent years. Consumers are increasingly opting for online purchases. The e-commerce industry and the logistics industry have experienced rapid growth in recent years. More online shopping platforms and online shops emerge. Online food delivery services also thrive. 

COVID-19 is a capricious foe, and the related measures in different countries change frequently. The e-commerce industry and the logistics industry can both benefit from the current environment because they are flexible and may deal with the change in customer behaviour rapidly.

Enterprises in other industries should assess their current business model and modify it to be more flexible and have fewer geographical risks. How they incorporate technology into their business model is also key to success in the future. 

How can companies remain competitive and profitable in a volatile market with a lot of uncertainties such as now? 

The pandemic significantly impacted many industries across the world. Enterprises that are ready to adapt to the “new normal” and are able to think outside the box and innovate, will be more likely to remain competitive and profitable in a volatile market with a lot of uncertainties, such as now.

To remain competitive, the management of companies should redesign and improve their operations and distribution channels to adapt to the changing consumer behaviours under the “new normal.” It is also important for the management of companies to think about technology and digitalisation to enhance operational efficiency, reduce operating costs, and diversify the distribution and marketing channels. In short, companies need to reposition themselves to meet the changing environment and customers’ needs.

Are there any trends that you have noticed amongst companies that you think will be the key to future success?

As I mentioned, the pandemic has sped up digital transformation. People will continue to rely on digital technologies for work, leisure, daily transactions, education, healthcare, and social interactions. Digital transformation is essential to future success. 

As a leading figure in the accounting industry, what advice can you give to future generations of the industry?

Firms in the accounting and auditing industry have faced challenges in recent years following the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as regulatory reform. The pandemic and new technologies are changing the working environment and influencing client expectations, which accelerates the digitalisation of the accounting and auditing industry. Besides, the growing demand for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) services and cryptocurrency-related services has also created opportunities for the accounting and auditing industry. Thus, the firms put in a lot of resources to adopt digitalisation and to train their teams with the required skill sets for ESG and blockchain.

To accommodate emerging trends, accounting professionals will need to perform more advanced managerial tasks and become more involved in risk management and business decision-making processes with the assistance of technology. Apart from analytical and management skills, digital skills are also essential skill sets in the modern accounting industry.

Continuing professional development is essential for accountants to keep ourselves up to date on new regulations, standards, and new environments so that we can uphold professionalism and competitiveness. Professional accountants need to spend more time and effort on continuing professional development to cope with the rapidly changing market.

As an upcoming judge in the Hong Kong International and National Business Awards, what criteria would you use and what would you look for amongst the entries?

The criteria that I would look for when judging the entries are financial and business growth; innovations; risk management; adaptability to the changing environment; social responsibilities and employee relations; and the organisation’s reputation.

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