- Richard Watt CA had no set plan when he chose accounting but it has helped fulfil his desire to travel and explore the world.
- Living and working abroad offers CAs the chance to learn about a foreign culture and get paid for it.
- Watt first moved to the bank’s institutional division and then operations to get critical leadership experience.
(Pictured: Richard Watt CA)
What is your current position?
I am the Chief Operating Officer and acting Chief Executive Officer for the ANZ Banking Group in Seoul, South Korea.
In 2000 I joined the ANZ as a finance manager in retail branch banking. Since then I have jumped at any opportunity that came my way within ANZ, first moving to the institutional division and then operations to get critical leadership experience.
How did you find yourself there?
I have been fortunate to have had terrific support from a few senior leaders at ANZ. This has taken me from Melbourne to postings in India, Singapore and more recently, South Korea.
Previously I lived and worked in London. I also spent six months travelling around the world and married a Russian economist. I think I have nomadic ancestors!
What does your typical day look like?
For me breakfast is at 6.30am with my 13-year-old son, before sending him off to school on the bus.
Sometimes a quick trek with my wife to the top of Namsan (Seoul Tower) is a good way to start the day and that takes about 45 minutes. I like to arrive at the office at 8.30am. I then walk a lap of the floor to say hello and catch up with the team. That is followed by a quick review of overnight news and emails.
I wasn’t sure where I would end up, but I was keen to travel and explore the world.
To optimise my time, I like to schedule meetings over lunch with staff, clients, peers from other banks, and Australian Embassy contacts. This helps to expand my network and take the pulse at the ground level.
In the afternoon, I discuss client proposals with the relationship managers, check on the status of process improvement initiatives in operations and spend time planning ahead for upcoming audits, regulatory reviews and senior visitors.
What do you like most and least?
Koreans are hardworking people. They also really know how to have fun, which creates a great working environment. I also enjoy Korean food and outdoor activities that range from hiking and biking to skiing and surfing.
Domestic travel is incredibly efficient too, with the bullet train able to get you 325kms from Seoul to the beachside town of Busan in just two and a half hours. There are ski slopes just 40kms from Seoul.
The language barrier and long cold winters are challenges, but present opportunities for learning new things in life. The Hangul (Korean) alphabet can be learnt in a morning.
When you chose accountancy, where did you expect to end up?
After studying accountancy at university, I followed in the footsteps of my two older brothers into chartered accountancy. I joined EY on the graduate program in 1993. I wasn’t sure where I would end up, but I was keen to travel and explore the world.
It was not until I was working as a chartered accountant that I had the opportunity to travel abroad. But earlier, at the age of 17 I had my scariest flying experience to date. I was a passenger with my 18-year-old neighbour piloting a four-seater plane and flying over our family’s sheep farms in Balmoral, Western Victoria.
Would you recommend an overseas posting?
Yes. By working in such places you can explore beyond the big-ticket tourist attractions and have the opportunity to learn about a foreign culture and get paid for it.
The decision to move away from family and friends is difficult; however in Asia you are never more than a 12-hour flight from home. We enjoy visiting Australia on our regular visits and look forward to living there again, one day.
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