Dato’ Anthony KH Lim is not your traditional accountant or bookkeeper. The CEO of KH Lim Group of Companies travels frequently providing accounting and strategic corporate advisory services to clients all around the world. Calling himself as the keeper of the books, Dato’ Lim shares with Top 10 of Asia how the complementary role of a strategic business advisor makes his accounting firm different from the others.
Most people assume that the accounting profession is dull and that accountants crunch numbers all day. But Dato’ Anthony KH Lim doesn’t think so. In fact, he finds the accounting profession rather interesting as he sees many new and exciting opportunities from the various businesses and different trends in financial data that he has worked with.
As Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and founder of KH Lim Group of Companies, Lim is a professional certified chartered accountant with extensive experience in accounting, audit, tax, secretarial and corporate strategic advisory for 25 years.
His accounting career began during his college years when he was working full-time in an accounting firm while studying part-time in the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) course. As a result of his early accounting work experience, Lim was able to become a member of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) upon graduation in 2000.
Over the next eight years, Lim’s career went remarkably well. In 2002, he became one of the youngest licensed tax agents in Malaysia, and in 2005, he became a fellow member of Malaysia Institute of Accountants (MIA), the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Chartered Tax Institute of Malaysia (CTIM). By 2006, he became a Branch Manager in an accounting firm. However, he had other ambitions.
“Although I was a Branch Manager, I realised that it was time for me to start my own accounting practice in the year 2008. My friends were concerned about me. They asked if I was doing the right thing to quit my job that was paying me well,” says the enterprising CEO.
“At that point in time in my life, three major events happened. First, my wife was expecting our third child. Second, I was going to buy my first house and third, I was going to set up my business. I literally used up all my savings as my mother supported me with RM18,000 to ease some of my burdens. I bought a very small office in Kelana Jaya near Kuala Lumpur and used my savings to spend on renovation and office furniture. 2/3 of the 1,500 sq feet of office space was sub-rented out which means I started with 500 sq feet of office space. I started my business with only one staff, and from there, we built and grew our business providing book-keeping, accounting, taxation and secretarial services to 200 clients for seven years.”
“But I wanted to see and experience more things. I wanted to travel. My first trip was back in 2009, where I travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia to set up an audit firm. During that journey, I obtained an audit license in Cambodia. I became the 22nd Auditor of Cambodia and the 4th Malaysian to do so. My journey did not end there. In 2012, marks the milestone of my acquaintance with international clients. I took the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong (HK) to deliver an accounting report to my client. My client was surprised that I flew all the way to HK to deliver a report which could have been easily sent via courier. But I mentioned to him that I wanted to explore HK and to see if there were any potential business opportunities there.”
The CEO continues, “During that visit, my HK client introduced me to more clients, one of whom was the former Chairman of China Airlines who is now my mentor and friend. Subsequently, from the work experience I had with him, he referred my services to more international clients. Since then, I started to travel abroad more often to work with overseas clients.”
Lim does not regard himself as a traditional accountant or “bookkeeper” who merely reviews the clients’ accounting books and produces financial reports for them. Instead, he breaks that stereotype by evolving his role into a strategic business advisor for his clients.
“I was advised that to be an accountant, I must always be one step ahead of others. Because I wanted to see and experience more things, I take the time to observe and learn the client’s business workflows and end-to-end operations. Along with my accounting and regulatory knowledge and expertise, I’m able to provide the right consultation and solution to the client.”
“The strategic business advisory role magnifies the existing accounting and bookkeeping services that we provide to our clients. This is where my role has changed from a bookkeeper to a keeper of the books,” smiles Lim.
Today, KH Lim Group of Companies provides accounting and bookkeeping, taxation, corporate secretarial service, auditing, corporate trust and will, and business advisory with emphasis on merger and acquisitions exercise. Since its humble beginnings in 2008, KH Lim Group has grown and expanded from a one-man outfit to some 45 employees servicing more than 600 clients from their new and bigger office with 6,000 sq feet prime office space located in Centrepoint South of Mid Valley City in Kuala Lumpur. The Group services clients located in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, United Kingdom, France, Croatia, Hungary, United States, Canada, and is expected to venture to Brazil and the Middle East soon.
Since many of his clients are based overseas, Lim travels frequently. While he feels that the frequent travelling can be tiring especially on long flights, he is grateful for the immense amount of knowledge and experiences gained from overseas projects and shares best practices with his international clients including those in Malaysia.
Lim shares, “As I evolve from a bookkeeper to keeper of the books, I become a partner to my clients. I collaborate with them to grow their businesses together via corporate strategies. I increase my knowledge and resources by observing through participation in various industries in several countries. From there, I document and translate all that information into financial data and values, and draw up a feasibility and strategy report, after which I propose an appropriate corporate exercise, direction and execution plan.”
Because of the invaluable business insight and advisory experience that complements the accounting services that Lim brings to his clients, he has been privileged to work on a number of strategic – and prestigious – projects around the world, one of which is working with one of the financial institutions related to the French Government on a heritage building design project in Paris with rich culture and tourism elements.
“Although I’m not in the design or tourism business, I shared what I’ve learnt from similar projects in other parts of the world. It’s a great achievement for us to be part of this project, and even more so when I’m the only Malaysian and Asian in the project team,” beams Lim.
Apart from the project in Paris, France, KH Lim Group recently signed a strategic partnership agreement with FCB Construction which is owned by PowerChina, a Global Fortune 500 company, and TUS Global Beijing which is related to Tsinghua University of Science (TUS), China’s biggest business incubation arm, of China’s Tsinghua University. KH Lim Group is the first accounting firm that the clients have signed a strategic partnership with. Lim is very proud that no other traditional accounting firms had ever been appointed and assigned for these collaborations as Strategic Partner.
With these upcoming projects, the CEO of KH Lim Group is indeed very excited about the prospects of his business. At the same time, these exciting times motivate him to drive his passion in his professional career and entrepreneurship forward.
“I’m doing this for my family. I have my wife and six daughters, so seven ladies in my family!” Lim says with a hearty laugh. “I feel it’s my responsibility to provide for my family to ensure that they are taken care of.”
With the frequent travels and multiple projects, how does the keeper of the books strike a balance between professional and personal life?
“I try to spend as much time as possible with my family especially during the weekends, though sometimes I have to attend business meetings. I like to watch movies with my family. I also keep in touch with them regularly via video calls whenever I travel.”
Lim also shares, “I always advise my daughters to do their best and to focus on their studies. I don’t force them to go into the same business like me. Instead, I say to them what my mother always said to me when I was younger – have a ‘Bigger Heart’ so that the road you walk on will be wider and that you have a vision that goes beyond distance.”