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blame remains a subject of debate. In any
case, these events prompted the amended
Banking Ordinance of 1967, under which
only British- and Australian-qualified char-
tered accountants could sign off on the ac-
counts of banks.
Hong Kong, which was already in short
supply of accountants because of the fast-
growing business community, suddenly
needed more of them. The lack of trained
accountants was holding back the city –
companies sometimes had to wait weeks for
their books to be audited.
“Because of the improvement in the busi-
ness climate, the demand for accountants
was clearly increasing,” Cheung remem-
bers. “Peat Marwick and Lowe Bingham
were hiring overseas qualified accountants
every year in increasing numbers,” he adds.
“The partners in the firms were muttering,
‘We need an accountancy profession, and
we need the universities to train local ac-
countants, other wise we won’t have enough
of a supply.’ ” Hong Kong, everyone agreed,
needed to start producing its own qualified
Many were also worried what might hap-
pen if overseas accounting bodies suddenly
withdrew recognition for Hong Kong ac-
countants. All auditors under part one of the
Companies Ordinance could become with-
out qualification in a stroke.
The trigger that led to the first big step to-
wards creating a professional and regula-
tory body occurred in 1966 – on the back of
The Commissioner of Inland Revenue,
Arthur Duffy, received another complaint
from his staff about the poor quality of cor-
porate tax returns – he decided it was one
too many. Out of patience, he summoned
leading accountants to see how the problem
could be resolved.
Partners at Peat Mar wick and Lowe Bing-
ham & Matthews were used to being con-
sulted by the government. “ Whenever the
Hong Kong government asked for advice or
comments on legislation, the Association of
Chartered Accountants basically got togeth-
er a few of the partners, sat down and wrote
a comment,” Peter Wong says. “It was almost
exclusively the chartered accountants who
gave that advice.” The profession giving ad-
vice to the government has a long tradition
By 1966, there were about 200 British-
and Australian-qualified chartered accoun-
tants in Hong Kong. Though they gathered
as the Association of Chartered Accountants
in Hong Kong, the group is remembered
mostly for its social agenda.
“ We would meet monthly over lunch, we
would have a lunch at the Hong Kong Club,
and we would have a golf tournament in the
winter and a golf tournament in the summer,”
recalls Cheung, who was railroaded by the
then senior partner at Peat’s, Gordon Mac-
whinnie, into ser ving as honorary secretary.
Duffy’s complaint was taken to the Execu-
tive Council, and negotiations with the As-
sociation of Chartered Accountants led to the
creation of the Accountants’ Working Party.
The working group was given the mandate
of exploring the possibility of developing a
more formal and standardized accounting
sector in Hong Kong.
In April 1966, at the old Alexandra House
in Central, Duffy and his Inland Revenue
Department colleague A.G. Hutchinson, as
well as F.S. Li, Charles Mar Fan, C.G. Smith
and M.W. Kwan gathered to convene the first
meeting of the working group. Many were
excited that the new working party was an
opportunity to finally create a body with the
power to regulate the profession, lift Hong
Kong’s accounting standards up to inter-
national levels and develop an accounting
qualification that young Hong Kong people
could strive to achieve.
Golf outings alone would not do. “ We
were all very keen to develop a Hong Kong
profession with a Hong Kong qualification,”
The working group started planning in
earnest. It envisaged creating a body that
governed the profession so rigorously that
the accounting sector would become self-
governing and independent from the gov-
ernment – similar to the organizations that
existed in the U.K . and Australia.
That same year, a prior worry for the
Hong Kong profession became a reality.
The Australian Societ y of Accountants an-
nounced it was withdrawing its training
and accreditation systems from Hong Kong.
This turn of events made everybody in the
Accountants’ Working Party even more anx-
ious to have Hong Kong establish its ow n ac-
In July 1967, in an encouraging move, a
government working party was formed to
work with the accountants to draft the nec-
essary legislation, which would give the new
body statutory powers to register and grant
practising certificates. The government ap-
peared keen to progress for ward too.
The Hong Kong Society of
Accountants' first office was
in Leeloong Building, Central.
Here, the building as it is today
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