Are you a triple threat?

Multi-talented corporate advisor Joyce Au is one.

Being both a chartered accountant and a Cambridge educated lawyer, Joyce Au is one of the most driven and talented, yet modest, professionals you could meet. Added to her arsenal are some awesome salsa skills which make Joyce a real triple threat. We asked Joyce for the details on what she does as a corporate advisor, how she got to where she is now, where she is going, and how she finds balance in doing it all.

So Joyce, you’re a corporate advisor, which is a broad job title. Can you describe the company you work with and your role specifically?

I work in the corporate advisory division of a listed accounting firm. Although my employer is a large company, each division operates like a standalone business. The business focuses predominantly on privately owned businesses. Our sweet spot is to work with SMEs who are looking for investors and capital to take them to the next phase of growth whether through private capital raising or IPO. We also help founders with succession planning when they want to sell out and retire or bring in new investors to help them gradually step down.

Reviewing relevant documents, undertaking due diligence as well as industry and market research forms a large part of what I do. Although we engage external lawyers because we are not licensed to provide legal advice, I do a lot of preliminary review work before we take the matter to external counsel.  It also involves a lot of number crunching, ranging from reviewing financials, preparing budgets, analysis, scenario planning and some financial modelling.

I work with the client to prepare a “data room”. This process helps the client identify any gaps which need to be tidied up. The research helps a lot in forming the background understanding and for preparing marketing material. After doing all that I then prepare the “glossy brochure” which puts together a neat and concise story to explain the client’s business to potential investors.

On top of all that I also help run the administration and due diligence on the investments in the pre-IPO fund which is part of my firm.

Describe your average day.

It’s a bit of a cliché but there’s no “average” day in this role. This is the excitement factor. I don’t know what will get thrown at me as the day progress or know how things might turn out, whether good or bad!

As a corporate advisor, I see myself wearing 3 hats – accountant, analyst and lawyer. On most days, I would be switching between these roles depending on what I’m doing for the client.

What excites you about your role?

The variety of work that comes as part of my role and the fact that it’s project-based work excites me. There’s always an end to a project and no two projects are identical. The added bonus is that when we work on longer term projects I really get to understand the client’s business and build a rapport with the client.

Outline your career path so far.

I started my professional career as an accountant working in a chartered accounting firm in business services.  Basically this was in private practice preparing client’s annual financial statements and tax returns.  After obtaining my CA (Chartered Accountant) accreditation and working as a professional accountant for 5 years, I was ready for a sea change and took two years off to pursue my law degree full-time at University of Cambridge.

After graduating from Cambridge, I had to undertake law bridging courses in order to qualify as a solicitor in NSW. During this time, I was invited back by my previous employer to re-join the accounting practice to run special projects for about eighteen months. In hindsight, this was the pre-work for the company to start preparing for its IPO.

Once I finished my bridging courses and college of law, I did an internship at a not for profit law firm for a few months in the commercial property practice. It amazes me sometimes how much practical information I took away from those few months. After my PLT, I moved to a boutique law firm specialising in corporate and commercial law. When I was ready to move on to a different firm, my old boss got back in touch and asked me to re-join the firm. Initially I was working partly in the corporate advisory area, which was a start-up division at the time, and partly in head office assisting with the acquisition of accounting firms for the practice. I ended up taking over operations and IT for about eight months when the operations person left shortly after I joined. As of about twelve months ago, I moved full time into my corporate advisory role and 100% servicing clients.

What have you implemented that makes your work life more productive or easier?

Planning is everything for me. I’m one of those sorts of people that run a ‘to-do-list’, sometimes even for the weekend! I always keep a list of things that I need to get done, partly because I have a goldfish memory and will forget it if I don’t write it down. The added benefit is that it helps me focus and is great for prioritising because I can see exactly what needs to get done, rank them in order of urgency and attack them one by one. I also get a weird sense of satisfaction crossing completed things off my list!

Work/life balance? 

I’ve been lucky to have always maintained a work/life balance throughout my career, although at times it’s been tough balancing work/study/life. Social life does have to give a bit during those times, so sorry friends! Exercising is what I love and it keeps me sane plus the health benefits. A friend re-introduced me to yoga about two years ago and now I’m just addicted to it. I have a routine where I go and exercise every morning. I find doing group exercise classes help disciplined. I also try going for a walk and fresh air at lunch time as often as I can.

I’m lucky as I usually have work-free weekends. If this means I have to stay back and work extra hours during the week I’ll do so I then have the weekend to myself, although at times it’s also reserved for studies.  I’m also detached from my phone in the evenings.

What does short and long-term success look like to you?

Short-term success would be becoming more proficient on the finance/analyst side of my work as there’s still an experience gap there to bridge.

Long-term success is to be happy in life, whatever that looks like. My real goal in life is to live life every day with a purpose and be content with what I’m doing. I don’t really have a fixed goal of where I want to get to because you just never know what’s around the corner. Not that I don’t focus on the long term but I don’t like to be fixated on things and staying flexible and open-minded has always been my approach.

What brings you joy outside work?

I often say I have too many hobbies! Music and salsa dancing are my biggest passions along with watching tennis matches.

Biggest win/loss and what have you learnt from them?

Nothing jumps to mind but I do like to celebrate small wins in life although I do turn around and forget about them! I try not to drill down over bad things which have happened in the past, although I try to learn from them so I don’t make the same mistakes again.

While I wouldn’t call this win/loss, it was interesting to reflect on the different paths and sometimes diversions I’ve taken in my career which allows me to understand more about what motivates me and what doesn’t. This has helped me immensely in working out what sort of role I’m likely to enjoy.

Which living people you would have over for a dinner party?

I don’t really have a list but I would definitely invite Lady Gaga, because I love her as an artist but more so admire her as a person. Also Warren Buffet, because who wouldn’t want a dinner conversation with him about business!

Thanks Joyce for being so open about what you do and how you got to where you are today. Keep being awesome and we look forward to seeing the next steps in your ongoing success.

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