Resilience and understanding the fundamentals of accounting, says experienced finance professional Dr Michelle Yeong.
“I think one should perhaps learn to understand the fundamentals of accounting first,” she says.
“Then it is a combination of depth in terms of technical skills, such as audit and tax, and a breadth of professional and IT skills, which includes knowledge in financial technology – 'FinTech', coding, ethics, and communication skills.
“You might want to have that bracket of skills to be successful in finance but staying resilient in the face of constant change is also key.”
Michelle is a relatively new face in the College of Business, Government and Law at Flinders University.
Making the move back to Australia from Oxford Brookes University, England, in 2021, Michelle is now Senior Lecturer at Flinders, sharing 20 years of international experience in the financial sector with her students in business studies and accounting.
“In the Flinders College of Business, Government and Law, the leadership mindset is so forward thinking, and it embraces innovation,” she says. “I really admire that, and I am so excited to be a part of the team.”
Having started coding and computer programming at the age of 10, Michelle grew up with an interest in computer science. However, accounting and finance promised her career stability at a time when computer science had yet to cement a reputation for highly secured jobs.
“That was why I chose accounting and finance,” she says.
“It was important for me understand the concept of money and how business works, and to have career security, I knew I would have a promising career. Everyone knows that all businesses need accountants, tax agents, and auditors.
Gaining an MBA and a PhD in accounting and finance from Oxford Brookes focussing on FinTech, Michelle has also built up more than 20 years of international experience across various aspects of financial services in Australia, Asia and Europe.
With an interest in digital literacy and innovation, Michelle is passionate about translating her academic research into constructive advice for business practitioners and in 2020 she developed a framework to help businesses innovate their business models.
Through theoretical insights and practical strategies, her framework guides traditional organisations through the process of business model innovation in the face of rapid technological innovation and disruptive change.
Michelle’s business model innovation framework encourages organisations to focus on four key capabilities – customer centricity, data analytics, talent management and leadership mindset.
“If they deploy all these four capabilities, they leverage their existing capabilities, and at the same time they should also experimenting with new capabilities” she says.
“Many would say we can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but I’ve found that even very traditional organisations can learn new, ingenious tricks. Already they have stability and a strong customer base, both of which give them a strong foundation for business model innovation.”
Much has changed in the financial sector since Michelle’s early days as an auditor working in accounting firms in Europe and Asia.
For example, FinTech innovations have provided new ways of managing financial transactions and are challenging modern banking. One popular innovation is cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.
Bitcoin is a digital currency.
Despite a recent crash in cryptocurrency values, Michelle says it’s worth exploring the future of monetary systems and how new financial technologies could influence future forms of money.
“Bitcoin is just one of the many cryptocurrencies, and they are enabled by the blockchain technology that happens in real time, anytime, anywhere without the intermediaries such as banks,” she says.
“There are a few central government banks around the world trying to develop their own digital currencies, known as CBDC, which is really interesting in the sense that one day we could have our own digital currency. That could be in the future.”
“We need to ask ourselves when was the last time we used cash?”
Speaking at a recent Flinders Fearless Conversations event on the topic of financial security, Michelle urged South Australians to improve their financial literacy in the wake of interest rate rises and increasing economic uncertainty.
“This is the best time to do a financial health check of what you have, and to set your priorities,” she told the panel.
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