Changes in the executive leadership of Deloitte Southeast Asia are under way, with Mr Chaly Mah retiring as chief executive on May 31 after more than 38 years of service with the Big Four accounting firm.
Mr Philip Yuen, now Deloitte Singapore chief executive, will succeed Mr Mah on June 1. "This is my only job and my last job," said Mr Mah, who has been CEO of Deloitte Southeast Asia for the past decade, and chairman of Deloitte Singapore.
"For me, the key milestone is the creation of Deloitte Southeast Asia firm. We had a vision to create this 10 years ago, way ahead of the launch of the Asean Economic Community. As AEC takes root, more businesses will look at Asean as an economic cluster."
Formed in 2007 under Mr Mah's leadership, the firm now has 7,300 employees and 270 partners globally. It has since expanded into Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. "Chaly is a visionary leader and has built a strong firm in the region. These are big shoes to fill and I am deeply humbled to succeed him," Mr Yuen said.
China's slowdown has made Asean an investment destination alternative for multinationals, especially as the region represents a huge consumer market with a 620 million population at a median age of 28 years, Mr Mah said.
The accounting industry is facing challenges from sensing technology and robotics, which he called the next wave of technology disruption. "We are investing up to 5 per cent of our revenue on innovation just to stay ahead of the curve."
The real unknown is a new technology called block chain, Mr Mah said. It works like a huge, decentralised ledger that records every transaction and stores this data on a global network to prevent tampering.
"When that becomes real, a lot of entries and records will be done through block chain technology, and that will change the way we do audit work," he added.
Globally, Deloitte is spending US$500 million (S$696.4 million) on new software to boost audit quality and productivity. In Singapore, it has collaborated with the Economic Development Board to create the Risk Innovation centre to provide solutions in cyber risk, future healthcare and governance.
Like the other Big Three accounting firms that have significant legal businesses, Deloitte is mulling over the option to grow that segment.
Legal work now accounts for US$500 million to US$600 million of Deloitte's global revenues, and the firm has plans to grow that into a billion-dollar business, Mr Mah said.