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How this accountant used ACA to stand out in hyper-competitive Vietnam

Author: Student Insights

Published: 22 May 2020

Mai Thi Hong Nhung, the first ACA qualified accountant in Vietnam

Vietnam has made massive inroads economically over the past two decades, but it’s not without its challenges. Unemployment has been falling, but the jobs market is hyper-competitive. Mai Thi Hong Nhung chose ICAEW to give her an edge, becoming the first Vietnamese-born person to start and finish the ACA qualification in her home country in July 2019. Currently working on secondment to Deloitte Singapore, she shares her experiences, advice for ACA students and the differences between the two countries.

ACA qualified accountant Mai Thi Hong Nhung

What about accountancy appealed to you?
In Vietnam, the unemployment rate is high. Many students can’t get a job after they’ve studied, so choosing the right degree was vital for me. I needed a subject that had good prospects for a job, a potentially high salary and a good working environment. I thought very hard about it and sought advice from my teachers and family. In the end, I decided accountancy was for me.

You decided to take ACA not long after graduating. What drew you to it?
Auditing and accountancy is extremely competitive in Vietnam, so I put my all into my degree to make sure I had the best chance of getting an internship with one of the big four. As a result, I got a scholarship to study ACA as one of the top-performing students in auditing at university. As not many in Vietnam are ACA qualified, it gave me the opportunity to really stand out.

You started working at Deloitte around the same time. How did you balance your work and studies?
I had a lot of support from many parties, including my managers at Deloitte. They knew that I was one of the first students in Vietnam to study ACA and gave me the space and flexibility to help me study. I also got a lot of support from ICAEW Vietnam, which gave me lots of good advice. So I thank them and Deloitte Vietnam for helping me to complete the ACA.

You completed all but one of your exams in the first attempt. How did you study?
Because not many had studied ACA before me in Vietnam, there was no one to consult with about the study materials or the exams. I also set myself very ambitious annual targets for my studies to ensure that I completed the qualification within three years.

Language is also a big challenge. My first language is Vietnamese – I can communicate in English, but not very well. A lot of the exams are very difficult, and your fluency in English comes into play as well as your knowledge.

Now that you’ve finished your studies, what are your next steps?
I’m on secondment at Deloitte Singapore from Deloitte Vietnam, and I can see the difference not only in the culture, but also the working style and the economy. Vietnam now is basically like Singapore 20 years ago – the economy in general, but more specifically in the accounting sector. I hope to bring the knowledge and experience I gain here back to Vietnam, and also to improve my working environment and my career.

What advice would you give other ACA students?
Be patient and keep trying. You can only take advantage of an opportunity if you’re willing to put the time into it. Don’t tell yourself that it’s too difficult or it’s impossible. It is possible, and if you put the work in, you will achieve it.