Accounting firms aren’t the only place where CPAs are forming successful partnerships. As Julian Hwang discovers, some have joined together over shared hobbies like photography, while others have partnered for love
Photography by Anthony Tung
Happy couple Kitty Tse and Parco Wu
“Compatible, outgoing and positive. Those are three words we’d used to describe our relationship,” says Parco Wu, Managing Director at Wu Chun Sing CPA (Practising), who is married to Kitty Tse, Financial Planning and Accounting Manager at Hung’s Food Group.
Wu and Tse, both Hong Kong Institute of CPAs members, celebrates their fifth anniversary in January. “We met 10 years ago at EY during my second year in the university’s nine month-joint internship programme,” recalls Tse.
Wu was Tse’s supervising senior for a project. Although it was not love at first sight, they developed a mutual attraction for one another in the short time they worked together. “Kitty was really calm and level-headed throughout her internship,” describes Wu. “She is also very kind-hearted and easy to understand, and she treats everyone sincerely. I found that really attractive.”
Tse thought Wu had his own unique set of captivating qualities. “Unlike the many solemn-faced accountants in the industry, Parco was able to effortlessly flow humour into both work and life,” says Tse. “I like to laugh, so I enjoyed being around him.”
Tse remained in contact with Wu after completing her internship. After graduating, Tse returned to EY. “We developed this really unique way of communicating,” says Tse. “Shortly after we met, it felt like it was easy to understand what the other person wants from body language and facial expression alone.”
They began to date, but pledged to not let their budding relationship affect their work. “We wanted to remain low-key. So to avoid any conflict of interest, we worked on separate projects,” says Wu.
With work taking up a significant portion of their time, they aimed to meet at least once a week for a meal together. “On Mondays to Thursdays, we usually just have dinner and go back to the office,” says Tse. “But on Fridays and Saturdays, we try to leave earlier if possible,” adds Wu.
On their dates, Tsim Sha Tsui was their playground due to their interests in food and visiting museums. “We both liked astronomy, so we went to the space and science museums quite often,” says Wu. The couple also enjoy sports, and often run or play badminton together. Karaoke is also one of their favourite activities – they both joined the Institute’s Singing Interest Group. “The interest group’s activities were really convenient, because they doubled as date night,” says Tse.
When asked about their most memorable moment together, they unanimously agree that it was on the day that Wu proposed. “It was Kitty’s birthday, so we went to Macau to celebrate with a dinner,” recalls Wu. Unknown to Tse, Wu had organized a helicopter ride from Macau back to Hong Kong, and he had planned to propose on board. “It was during the rainy season of May, so I had to try to schedule it on a day that had fair weather. Also, the helicopter was not private so I had to figure out a time when passenger traffic was the lightest.”
Everything went according to plan, dinner was delicious and the flowers were beautiful. Unfortunately, there were no available taxis to take them back to the heliport. “We ended up running down the road towards the terminal while I carried my bouquet of flowers,” says Tse. They found a taxi halfway through and made the flight. With only two other passengers onboard, Wu and Tse sat at the back of the helicopter and the two began the next stage of their life together. “It made sense afterwards why he was so insistent on catching that flight. I’m glad that we made it even though we were both a bit exhausted from the run,” recalls Tse. “It was definitely not your everyday proposal.”
The pair later left the firm, with Tse joining Hung’s Food and Wu aspiring to run his own accounting firm. As Wu was in the process of setting up his company in 2016, their son was born. For the couple, communicating was an integral part of their relationship during that stressful period.
“Because we are in the same field, I could sometimes delegate some work to Kitty if I had too much to handle, although I haven’t since our son was born.”
“Parco was really supportive of me even if he couldn’t really understand what I was going through as the baby matured,” says Tse. “He never asked me why or challenged me on my decisions.” At the same time, Wu made an effort to talk with Tse every night. “Kitty also helped me out by listening to my problems about work. I think our mutual sharing and listening was what helped us get through it all.”
Being a CPA couple has mutual benefits. “Because we are in the same field, I could sometimes delegate some work to Kitty if I had too much to handle, although I haven’t since our son was born,” says Wu. Tse adds that they also have a common circle of friends, which makes talking with them easier. “Also, as CPAs, we know when peak seasons are, so Kitty is forgiving towards me if I can’t always make it home on time,” jokes Wu. Before they had their child, Tse would also help out occasionally at Wu’s office to help lighten her husband’s workload. “When the firm was being set up, my colleagues and I had a lot to sort out on top of our existing jobs. Thankfully, Kitty offered to take on some of our accounting-related tasks, so I’d say that she was a helping hand in the establishment of my company.”
With their son nearing one-a-half years old, the pair is considering a bigger family. “We’d like another companion for our child,” says Tse. “I don’t mind a boy or girl, as long as he or she is healthy and happy, that’s all we want,” adds Wu.
Close-ups and personal
The Institute’s Photography Interest Group is one of the most popular interest groups, with around 850 members. “We were officially formed in 2013 and try to provide a balance of activities for our members,” says Tony Wan, Director of Assurance and Business Advisory at Ascenda Cachet CPA. “In addition to classes, we also have practise sessions, sharing sessions and outdoor events for members to apply what they have learnt.”
In 2010, Wan purchased his first digital single-lens reflex camera. “I had just graduated from the Qualification Programme and wanted to learn to take photos,” recalls Wan. As he was learning various photography techniques, he was inspired to share the joy of photography with other members. He consulted the Institute about setting up a photography interest group in 2012, but was asked to do a trial class first to gauge other members’ interest on the subject. “I did an introductory class that showed the basics behind photography, how to do scenery and people shots, and a panning shot for racehorses.”
Albert Leung was one of the 30 people who joined Wan’s class, and the two co-founded the Photography Interest Group the year after. “It wasn’t just us though,” says Leung, Accounting Manager at Kid Line Worldwide. “From that same class, we met about 10 other original core members who helped us to build up the interest group into what it is today.”
In the past, Leung used to be an avid photographer with his film camera, but had to put his hobby aside due to the heavy workload. “It wasn’t until 2009 when digital cameras became prevalent that I started taking photos again,” recalls Leung. “I saw the class that Tony was offering and decided to give it a try. I didn’t go expecting to help co-found the group, but I’m glad I went.”
To Wan and Leung, photography is an activity unlike any other. “Compared with something like sports, which is competitive, photography is a fun group activity that can be enjoyed by everyone without having to worry about winning or losing,” says Wan. “It helps us realize the beauty of our surroundings, even if it’s a place that we pass by on a daily basis, like the Sai Wan District and its ‘Instagram Pier’ for example,” adds Leung.
The interest group often organizes outdoor activities for its members to see the beauty of the outdoors and to put their skills to the test – many of which are met with a high attendance of dozens of members. For Wan and Leung, seeing their members’ skills continuously improving is one of their greatest achievements as both the co-founders and co-convenors.
“I saw the class that Tony was offering and decided to give it a try. I didn’t go expecting to help co-found the group, but I’m glad I went.”
“When we’re out on the field, we usually don’t teach as much,” says Leung. “We’re happy to see that members have retained a lot of what they have learnt in class.” Some members have even gone on to win international photography awards, which has impressed the duo immensely.
Weather is sometimes a concern for the group – should there be any signs of a sudden and heavy storm due to a typhoon or other reasons, all events are cancelled immediately. “Luckily, we haven’t had to cancel anything at a short notice yet,” says Wan. Although the group has been on outings where poor weather made the shoot impossible, like encountering cloudy weather during a sunset, they’re still able to enjoy the post-shoot meal afterwards. “Even if we can’t get the shots we want, we still treat each outing like a friendly networking event,” explains Leung.
Another challenge for the interest group was communicating with members during the first two years. “We didn’t have WhatsApp back then, so we had to call each member. With a participation list of 30 or more under most instances, having to call them each individually to confirm participation or provide updates was a very inefficient process,” recalls Wan. The founders worked diligently with the other members to speed things up.
Being both CPAs and sharing the same interests, the pair often have a lot to talk about. “We’d often share our experience in photography and talk about the newest gear on the market,” says Wan.
With Leung working as a commercial accountant for a exporting and manufacturing firm and Wan as a practising accountant, there’s always something new to learn about each other’s sector and each other. “I’d say it’s mostly me asking him about things,” jokes Leung. “When new accounting developments like IFRS 15 came out, Tony would share references or examples of cases where he's dealt with them before.” Wan notes that he has learnt a lot about Albert's practical experience in areas such as Mainland China tax. "It's a mutual learning experience for both of us.”