Employers’ Insights 02 – KPMG (Advisory)

Accounting is a broad field that pertains to the professional world. Myriads of career in accounting exists and they’re not limited to audit or taxation; the top two accounting-related professions our Level 14 students are too familiar with. For a start, there’s Advisory! 

With more than 15 years of experience in the various facets of management consulting services, Nik Anira, the Executive Director in Management and Risk Consulting of KPMG Malaysia, kindly shares with us what Advisory is all about, specifically in the Strategy & Operations service line of Management Consulting. Read on to understand more about Advisory and who knows if this may be the career path you might consider taking!

1. Advisory is not a common path taken by fresh graduates and perhaps an unfamiliar career option to some students. Do you mind sharing with us in details, what Advisory is all about. How does a typical day in KPMG’s advisory division look like?

Advisory is about providing valued insights based on a synthesis of facts obtained through diligent research with experiential knowledge gained over the breadth and depth of the engagements. Whether for private sector where commercial objectives are paramount or for the public sector where national goals take precedence, great care and extensive effort are undertaken in developing the recommendations for the client’s consideration to meet their objectives.

In the Strategy & Operations service line of Management Consulting, where I belong to, we provide services to clients in the private and public sectors comprising of a wide range of services including but not limited to developing strategic master/business plans, conducting feasibility/economic (including economic impact) studies, carrying out business process improvement/reengineering studies, qualitative and/or quantitative analyses, etc.

There are no typical days in Strategy & Operations as every day is intrinsically different because the agenda for a day may consist of a combination of any of the following for a variety of stakeholders with different concerns and goals:
– Meeting clients: discussing their needs and concerns, the overall framework and constraints for the work to be done (scope of work, time frame, costs, staffing, priorities, etc.)
– Reviewing deliverables (reports, plans, findings from research and/or analyses undertaken, final recommendations, implementation plans,) for clients
– Providing guidance to and managing engagement team members to meet engagement objectives, overcome operational challenges, professional development, conflicts, etc.
– Setting the strategic direction including prioritization of focus areas for the business units
– Developing tactical support which are aligned to the chosen strategic direction
– Attending to administrative matters and trouble shooting

2. Advisory focuses on long term planning and helps the clients to tackle risks and financial issues in their company. What is the hardest challenge you have ever faced in this profession? How has it shaped you to be what you are right now?

Getting the buy-in from clients and stakeholders is always the biggest challenge in our line of work. This is due to the very important reason of their collective interest in wanting to ensure that the goals and objectives of a project are successfully met subject to the constraints and criteria of the organisations they represent.

In overcoming this challenge, my communication and analytical skills have been honed and refined through the years spent in advisory. Having highly developed communication and analytical skills are especially important when it comes to negotiations and analysis in many aspects, not least those including the scope of work for a given fee, the challenges to meet the objectives of the engagement, the time frame, and the costing of the project while maintaining a sense of urgency, professional courtesy, and understanding for the client even when there appears to be conflicting matters or interests. 

3. Why did you choose Advisory apart from any other accounting area? What excites you to stay in this department?

As a firm providing a range of professional services, KPMG is often associated with accounting services such as audit and tax due to its historical roots. However, just as the dynamics of the global and local economy have evolved and continue to do so, KPMG has also broadened its array of service offerings including advisory services in the form of management consulting, risk advisory and deal advisory.

The constantly changing demands, described above, due to the absence of a typical day makes it truly exciting since every project is different as different clients have different needs and wants with a different combination of people from a variety of professional backgrounds.

4. Having the chance to go extra miles from the day you first started your career, what are the skills that you have unexpectedly improved on and subsequently helps you to improve yourself in this profession?

The ability to communicate effectively to an audience with diversified way of thinking and individual personalities: from the members of the C-suites to officials of the highest echelons in the public sector to managerial staff with a plethora of roles and responsibilities; and to effectively convey and share such communications with my own colleagues.

5. Being in this industry for years, you may have witnessed yourself the hurdles and high tides in life, any advices you would like to share with the fresh graduates who still own the thinnest string of faith in their capabilities out there?

There are three key elements which are essential: (1) self-determination to succeed, (2) belief in yourself, and to (3) pursue what you truly want.

The self-determination to succeed is every individual’s want or desire to achieve success in any undertaking. If this is absent in a person, then there would be little self-confidence because there is no desire for achievement.  

The belief in oneself is about the trust you need to have in yourself: there is a need to trust that your judgment, ambitions, principles in life, and even opinions are worth having and pursuing. If you don’t have a belief in yourself, it means you do not trust yourself. If so, there will be no self-confidence.

Finally, it is important to pursue what you genuinely believe to be important to yourself instead of placing a priority on goals and ambitions which are important to people other than yourself. Therefore, it is important to understand what you truly want for yourself because you can develop self-confidence and be satisfied in your own career of choice in the future.

Nik Anira Nik Mohd Zain is the Head of Strategy & Operations (S&O) and Shared Services and Outsourcing Advisory (SSOA) in KPMG Malaysia Management Consulting practice. She is also the country leader for KPMG Global Strategy Group (GSG), brings with her over 15 years of experience in leading large-scale engagements in the areas of macroeconomic and industry assessment, benchmarking, business transformation, operational strategy, process improvements, robotic process automation, organizational design; and strategy development for national, industry and enterprise interests, market feasibility studies on industry specific sectors, infrastructure investment, location analysis, economic study and national policy development.

She supports various engagements involving strategic planning, market feasibility studies across various industries, operational strategy, organizational review including manpower planning. In various projects undertaken, she has reviewed various State economic plan, human resource development, socio-economic development, funding model including developing assumptions for its financial projections, financial modeling, and GDP/ GNI estimation.

To read more on other sub-service line under KPMG Malaysia’s Advisory department, click here.


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