Alumna Charlotte W. W. Lin: First Female CEO of a Big Four in Taiwan
NTU alumna Charlotte W. W. Lin (林琬琬) was elected the CEO of KPMG in Taiwan in October, 2017, and has begun her duties on January 1st, 2018. Lin is both the first female CEO since the establishment of KPMG in Taiwan, and the first female CEO among the Big Four firms in Taiwan.
Charlotte W. W. Lin, a certified public accountant (CPA) at KPMG in Taiwan, graduated from the Department of Accounting at NTU in 1985. In an interview by her alma mater last November, Lin recounted her career path from a practicing accountant to the CEO of KPMG in Taiwan, her visions for leading the firm, and her encouragement for accounting students at NTU.
1. How I Started a Career as an Accountant
After graduating with academic distinction from the Department of Accounting at NTU, I secured the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant at the department for two years. Afterwards, I pursued further studies in the United States for two years, and returned to Taiwan after earning a master’s degree. However, I did not join large accounting firms like my classmates did; instead, I chose a smaller firm and acquired a comprehensive set of knowledge and skills related to accounting services. The firm was later merged into a large one, making me a member of a large accounting firm.
You can build a personal brand when working at a large accounting firm. In the early phase of their career, accountants must learn comprehensively to widen their knowledge base, and then concentrate on the domains that interest them until they become independent practitioners. Overall, most accountants start their career as entry-level staff in the first two years; develop skills in managing and handling cases during the third to fifth years; learn to manage people in the sixth to eighth years; and finally focus on managing customer relationships, supervising subordinates, and developing businesses in the years that follow. Although the process from acquiring broad knowledge to developing specific expertise takes a long time, it is the direction that I have pursued in my career.
2. Opportunity Awaiting: Appointed as CEO
Recently, workplace gender discrimination has become scarce in most newly emerging businesses. Similarly, the accounting industry is seeing fewer cases of favoritism for male professionals. For example, about 50% of KPMG’s employees are women, and more female than male accountants have been promoted in recent years. In view of this, I think that nowadays male and female accountants are treated equally in the accounting industry. Therefore, the appointment of a female CEO is foreseeable and natural. In fact, I was not aware that I will be the first female Big Four CEO in Taiwan until I read the news.
3. My Visions for Serving as the CEO of KPMG in Taiwan
I have been a practicing accountant for over 18 years. In addition to developing new clients and retaining current ones, I have started to introduce my long-term clients to junior accountants while leading the younger generation to develop new customers.
My work philosophy has been: “Always be prepared for opportunities and be brave to try new things.” Therefore, when Chairman of KPMG in Taiwan Winston Yu (于紀隆) invited me to be the next CEO, I said yes after thinking for 10 minutes. In terms of work experience, I have served in various departments and acquired a wide array of professional experiences. Moreover, my patience, attention, and willingness to listen to what others have to say will help facilitate communication and coordination among colleagues and clients.
In taking up the position of CEO, I hope to contribute my value and experience to this large accounting firm, providing a platform for over 100 practicing accountants and more than 3,000 staff members to make the most out of their individual talent and expertise.
In addition, the technology and knowledge of accounting are evolving and changing rapidly. I will convey the latest accounting information in the industry to clients, inquire them about their opinions on such information, and then evaluate whether the information can be disseminated through the firm, thus achieving the effect of “Teaching is learning.”
4. Both an Accountant and a Lecturer
In addition to providing accounting services, I started to teach auditing in 1993. I taught at Tamkang University as an adjunct lecturer from 1992 to 1996. Afterwards, I have been teaching auditing in the Department of Public Finance at National Chengchi University. I am particularly interested in the theoretical knowledge of practical accounting. Before class every Friday, I prepare lessons and compile handouts for students. Each class preparation is an opportunity for me to improve my knowledge of accounting and realize the ideal of “Teaching is learning.”
5. Words of Encouragement for Prospective Accountants at NTU
Today’s world is undergoing drastic changes in a speed that we can hardly adapt to. Similarly, our work mode alters with the changing need for talent. However, it is difficult to predict what changes we will encounter. All we can do is keep making progress, provide professional accounting services and counseling, and stand by our clients’ side in the advent of the new age. For practicing accountants, the top priority is to accumulate basic knowledge and build on expertise while striving to win the trust of our clients and the public.
I love my job. I always try to find fun in work, and make tedious accounting chores into interesting tasks. For example, I seek to understand the needs of my clients, win their trust, accompany them to face and solve problems, and provide professional services and information for them. I hope all accounting students at NTU will benefit from my story and experience.
*The original Chinese article was written by Head of the Department of Accounting Prof. Chiawen Liu (劉嘉雯) and Senior Clerk Wei-Cyuan Lin (林威權) of the Alumni Association of the Department of Accounting, NTU.