Making the difference: Accounting tailored for Vietnam’s startup miracle

January 06, 2021 | 09:15
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Vietnam has emerged as one of Asia’s strongest economic performers in recent years. Since 2010, Vietnam's GDP growth has been at least 5 per cent per year, and in 2017 it peaked at 6.8 per cent. Its robust economy has even managed to ride out the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Economic Forum says, "Today, Vietnam is one of the stars of the emerging markets universe. Its economic growth of 6-7 per cent rivals China, and its exports are worth as much as the total value of its GDP."

With a thriving export economy and strong foreign investment, McKinsey calls Vietnam one of the “outperformers” of the Asian economy. Fitch Ratings says Vietnam's "economic resilience and success in bringing the coronavirus outbreak under control" puts it in a position to be one of only four APAC countries expected to record positive economic growth for 2020.

Starting up in Vietnam

making the difference accounting tailored for vietnams startup miracle
Nam Nguyen FCPA (Aust.)

Nam Nguyen FCPA (Aust.) knows all about Vietnam’s remarkable growth story. As a business founder himself and a financial advisor to many successful businesses, he has a front-row seat to witness the country’s economic boom.

He says a crucial aspect of this upward trajectory is the entrepreneurial spirit one finds throughout the country.

Currently the managing partner of his firm NNC and chairperson of the CPA Australia South Vietnam Advisory Committee, Nam clocked up 25 years of experience with global consulting firms in Vietnam, including extensive stints as partner with EY, KPMG, and PwC.

Before starting up NNC, a leading boutique professional service firm based in Ho Chi Minh City, he was the managing director of BDO.

Highly regarded as a trusted advisor by leading local and multi-national companies, Nam knows what it takes to start up a new business and make it successful. He says a combination of factors has contributed to the country's success in recent times.

"Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing economies and has a population of almost 100 million potential consumers, with high literacy, hard-working attitude, and increasing disposable income," he says.

"Vietnam's entrepreneurs are tech-savvy and receptive to new trends and consumer culture, and backed by pro-startup government policies," he says. "All these together create a perfect environment for startup businesses."

From Big 4 to startup

Nam says he backed it up with his skills, knowledge, and experience to move from a senior role at a major consulting firm to the relatively risky undertaking of starting his own business.

"I worked in Big 4 firms in Vietnam for many years, and my professional career successes kicked off when I obtained my CPA Australia designation," he says.

Becoming a CPA broadened his scope of knowledge and provided him with a new set of strategic skills.

"I was promoted to partner in a Big 4 firm three months after I received my CPA Australia designation. The designation has helped me along with my career and continuing education journeys till now. It helps me build my personal leadership brand, as well as my business and social networks."

He started NNC in 2017, buoyed by the increasing support the startup sector was receiving from the government as well as investors. The Vietnam Venture Summit 2020 provided another example of the bullish nature of the startup scene, with 33 VC firms pledged to invest over USD 800 million in local startups over the next 3-5 years.

Nam had plenty of exposure to the bubbling startup ecosystem during his time with the big firms, but he wanted a more hands-on role. He could see enormous potential among the founders he dealt with. Still, there was a distinct lack of specialised guidance and mentorship for startups, especially in areas like finance, governance, and strategy.

Seeing this need in the marketplace, he created a boutique firm that could combine Big 4 acumen with the personal touch startups require.

"Startup founders are increasingly reaching out to accountants who can go beyond the roles of traditional service providers to mentor and advise them through thick and thin – wherever their ambitions take them," he says.

"And when it comes to the really important things – the decisions that will shape their future – they need someone who really has their back. They need an ally, a confidant, and friend. They need someone who can co-invest in their startup journey. They need top-notch accountants and financial advisors at affordable prices.”

Nam says startups rarely have the governance structures and organisational cultures of bigger firms in place. They are also often unaware of the financing options available to them. For these reasons, it makes sense for startups to seek advice externally. However, it can be hard to find trustworthy advisors who understand their journey.

"As startup businesses in Vietnam grow, their founders need accounting and finance service providers who think and act like them to share their dreams and invest in their successes. So when they need professional support in accounting and finance – because let's face it, every business does – they need a special kind of accountant like a professional with CPA Australia designation."

His advice to startup founders is to focus on what makes them special and unique. "The key success criteria for a startup business is making a difference,” he says. “Making a difference requires both doing different things and doing things differently. If a startup business cannot do different things, then it should at least do things differently."

How CPA Australia makes a difference

CPA Australia provides members with an internationally-recognised qualification while offering a variety of learning resources in multiple channels to enhance knowledge and skills for members for their own continuing professional development (CPD).

Whether it is advancing one’s career or starting up a new business, becoming a CPA member is a calling card to opportunity, helping members expand their horizons, reach new heights, and make a difference in the world.

Read more about the success of CPA Australia members and learn more about how to become a CPA member. Feel free to contact the teams in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City for more information.

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