PwC Taiwan Passes on a Heritage: Not Just Titles, but its Culture of Integrity

A special report from Accounting Research Monthly, (Vol. 331, published on June 1st, 2013)

Albert Hsueh will be passing on the PwC Taiwan chairman baton to Dexter Chang on July 1st this year (2013). As a matter of fact the new chairman was elected two years ago; and it has been an exquisite succession process over the past two years.

Passing on PwC culture of integrity through a revolutionized mechanism of succession

The successor was nominated by the Select Committee, coached and appointed step by step.

Domestic accounting firms are based on “partnership” instead of general company structure, yet they still have to face the subject of “passing on the heritage” when it comes to achieving sustainable operations. For companies, the most important thing of passing on the heritage is to find appropriate successors; however, will the successors pass on the company’s core values and culture?

Albert Hsueh thinks that PwC Taiwan is like a big family in which everyone is a “partner” rather than an “employee”. He doesn’t like PwC Partners to be called bosses. For him, the word “Partner” implies responsibilities and obligations—not power or positions. After being elected unanimously to the chairmanship by secret ballot in early 2006, he deliberated over some questions: Is an election an appropriate method for a partnership-based firm to select its chairman? Will a proper leader be elected through this process? Will the competition cause adverse effects after an election? Since what he wants to pass on are not just titles but—more importantly—PwC Taiwan’s core values and culture of integrity, he decided to develop a mechanism of succession which is able to last in the long run.

Hence, a new chairman selection mechanism was established three years ago. In this mechanism, a select committee of five Partners nominates candidates for chairman and all Partners vote yes or no. Albert Hsueh said that even though the new mechanism was developed by himself, he didn’t intervene in the process of selecting the candidates nominated by the select committee. Instead, he proposed four major requirements that a chairman candidate can fulfill: wholehearted dedication to work; a global perspective; an ambition to develop a new era; and an easy-going but highly principled approach. Two years ago, Dexter Chang was nominated by the select committee and approved in vote by partners to take over the chairmanship. That consensus decision making replacing the secret ballot reduced potential impacts of election. Albert Hsueh believes, Dexter Chang is with a good educational background and experience, daring, and more importantly he respects senior colleagues and is humble enough to take advices. Albert Hsueh believes that Chang will do a better job than he did.

Did Dexter Chang take up the post immediately after he’s elected? No. Rather than handing over the chairmanship at once like what other firms do, PwC Taiwan took another route. Albert Hsueh initiated a two-year succession plan. He gave Dexter Chang quite a few missions in order to fully pass on his experiences and to familiarize Dexter Chang with decision making. His strong sense of responsibility is greatly admired by Dexter Chang. Albert Hsueh didn’t stop his mentoring program even only one month before the transition. He has been considered as a self-disciplined and meticulous leader who holds fast to what is good and persists in providing high-quality professional services. And, his personality characters are evident in his determination to bring about the revolutionized mechanism of succession for the past seven years.

Step by step towards the chairmanship position

Many people are interested in knowing how Dexter Chang, raised in an average family in Changhua, made to the chairman position. Holding a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Dexter Chang applied to PwC Taiwan like most of his classmates did without much deliberation after finishing his military service. He was enlightened by the view of the founder of PwC Taiwan and the company’s culture, and decided to join the firm. During his time with the firm, he received a scholarship to pursue higher education and obtained a CPA license in the United States. One year after returning to Taiwan when he realized that the firm was looking for someone to set up its Chungli office, he made a daring decision to take up the opportunity with only one day of consideration. Four years later the mission was accomplished and he returned to Taipei office. He was then promoted to department head, CRO (Chief Risk Officer) and CEO two years ago, to be ready for the next chairman.

Through his accounting career path Dexter Chang deeply understands that being an accountant is tough. For some accountants it becomes too difficult to bear, so that they give up their dreams. However, Dexter Chang has hold fast to his belief that there is no shortcut but taking it step by step towards success. It is believed that it is his faith leads him to the chairmanship position.

Dexter Chang to put the right people in the right positions and to strengthen audit risk management

To be a chairman of an international accounting firm in Taiwan with 2,700 employees, Dexter Chang expects himself to fulfill three responsibilities. The first is professional responsibility. Because the public holds trust and expectations to accounting firms, PwC Taiwan has to issue opinions of all audit reports with decency. The second is educational responsibility. Every employee has different career plans and goals. PwC Taiwan has to be committed to providing a continuous learning environment to develop employees’ professional knowledge, leadership capabilities, and global perspective. The third is corporate social responsibility. Believing that corporations should give back to the society, PwC Taiwan will endeavor to put its view into practice and to pay close attention to corporate social responsibility and sustainability in the areas of professional contribution, environmental protection, community , and talent development.

With respect to future business strategies, Dexter Chang emphasizes that every Partner is part of the management team. He will properly put the right people in the right positions by assigning different Partners to different functions according to their specialties and characteristics. Currently PwC Taiwan offers three major services: assurance, tax and legal, and advisory services. In the light of bio-technology and cultural and creative industry blooming and the growing of Taiwan’s capital market, Dexter Chang will focus on providing assurance services to companies planning to IPO when he takes up the position. However, he will also reinforce the importance of risk management considering economic volatility and greater audit risk. He will require all accountants to remove clients with integrity issues in order not to sacrifice long-term benefits for short-term profit. In the meantime, he will continue to assist large corporations in addressing global tax risk management, reducing tax risk, and offering advisory services in terms of global strategy, operations management and M&A, by following the independence principle. In view of the overall situation of the accounting industry, he thinks that the biggest challenge to accounting firms in Taiwan is relatively low audit fees. Only when there is a reasonable charge for professional services, accounting firms would be able to attract talents to join. And, only when there is a comprehensive talent supply chain, the overall industry would be able to move towards positive growth and carry out professional values. In this context, Dexter Chang hopes to collaborate with industry leaders to improve the environment of the accounting industry.

Albert Hsueh to keep a positive attitude after passing the baton; Chang to dedicate himself wholeheartedly to work after receiving the baton

As the date of the handover draws closer, how do the current and future chairmen adjust to their new roles? Albert Hsueh said that in fact, since he had no plan to take over the role of the chairman seven years ago, he feels himself leisurely and carefree stepping down now. However, he addressed that if you want to do something, do it when you are at current position and do it well. When it is time for you to step down, do it gracefully. After stepping down from the chairmanship, Albert Hsueh will respect the new chairman’s management style. With more than thirty years of accounting experience, he will spend more time promoting accounting-related social welfare going forward and continue contributing his expertise to the application of corporate financial information, corporate governance, and business succession planning. He smiled and said that in the past, he had to be a decisive and resolute leader when he was responsible for the development of PwC Taiwan; therefore he might give some people a hard time from time to time unavoidably. In the future, he will keep a positive attitude towards people and things around him.

The challenges and pressure of being a chairman now transfer to Dexter Chang—the new chairman of PwC Taiwan. Dexter Chang admitted that he no longer thinks from a personal perspective. What is the most important thing for business leaders is to devote themselves wholeheartedly to work. Dexter Chang is used to “investing his whole life in work”. For him, the best work-life balance is not 50/50, but integrating work with his life; and he finds pleasure in it. Since he became the chairman-to-be, he has travelled much more frequently for overseas meetings. At his home, he has a luggage with personal items at all times for him to set out on a business trip at once. Clearly, this is enough to show that his life and work are inseparable.

In comparison with Albert Hsueh’s contained, meticulous, advanced-planning personalities, how will Dexter Chang lead PwC Taiwan to further breakthroughs and sustainable development? Everyone is watching.

CHANG, Shu-Wei / Senior Editor at Accounting Research Monthly

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