Home country – Vietnam
Studied - BA Accounting and Finance; MSc Accounting and Finance, 2014
Career – Transfer Pricing Manager at PWC Vietnam
Where do you currently live and work?
I relocated back to Vietnam after leaving Exeter in January 2014 and have been with PwC Vietnam since July 2014.
Why did you choose to pursue this career?
I got very interested in transfer pricing (“TP”) issues when I was in Exeter. That was the time when people started to get serious about TP, especially with the case of Starbucks in the UK. So when moving back to Vietnam, I applied for TP services in PwC and have been doing this for over 6 years now. This role has given opportunities to work with many colleagues around the world (either from PwC network firms or from head offices/regional offices of our clients), in order to understand the bigger picture of their intercompany pricing policies as well as to support our clients to comply with TP regulations in Vietnam.
For those less familiar with transfer pricing, how would you describe it in one sentence?
It is actually quite tricky to describe TP, even in one paragraph. Essentially, TP is a practice to determine the price of goods and/or services between related companies (companies within the game group), in order to examine whether the price between related companies is comparable to the price between independent companies (companies not in the same group). This is to ensure that each company in the same group will operate as if they were independent, and hence they will earn proper profits and pay proper tax accordingly just like other independent companies.
Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?
Let’s just say Exeter gave me everything I wanted. It was the city, the people (both local people and members of staff), the students and the degree. The city is vibrant but at the same time not too big that you would feel overwhelmed. Everyone is friendly and that really goes against what overseas students like us tend to hear about the UK (eg. people are very cold and reserved). The degree is well structured and gives us everything we need for our career.
Why did you choose your degree subject?
The degree has really given me clear understanding of accounting, which is the backbone of any business. From that, I guess I could apply for any role that I wanted. The biggest highlight was that I got offered to be the Accounting Scholar, which was a prestigious scholarship back then where the University of Exeter Business School would pay 100% of my postgraduate fee and at the same time, I got to teach first year students. It was an amazing experience because I always love teaching and if it were not because of the visa requirements, I would have stayed longer.
How did your degree help you prepare for the position you are in now?
I was friends with students from the UK and around the world. So during our group work assignments, I was usually in a very diverse team, which helped me to understand how to work with different people from different backgrounds. Also, being pro-active and asking questions when I was not clear about something is a huge thing in my daily work life. I’m in consulting so we ask and ask and ask, to ensure that we understand what our clients are going through to support them.
Please tell us about the application process for your graduate job, and how you prepared and/or managed this?
For PwC Vietnam, back then I had to submit my application online (around January and February). Next, I was asked to take an online test, then I had to do another test at the centre after I passed the online test. A group interview where they assessed my group work and presentation skills would follow. And eventually, it was the final interview with 2 leaders of PwC Vietnam (usually a partner/director and a manager)
Did you use the Career Zone whilst at Exeter? If so, what especially helped?
I did use Career Zone whilst at Exeter and even the employability team of Business School. Both channels gave me lots of insights into how to write a personal statement letter and CV. However, I did not use these resources as much as I should have. As I said earlier, I love teaching and I found myself at the perfect place being the Accounting Scholar. So I did not really actively look for a job, until I decided I would not go ahead with a PhD after my MSc degree. By then it was already too late.
What aspects of your UK university education worked in your favour during the application process?
I think a lot of aspects of university education in the UK have helped me during the application process. This may also be applicable for university education in other countries where English is the native language, for example the UK, the US, Australia. As you may know, the whole application process is in English. So my experience in the UK helped me to react very well with all the questions during the process, from the tests to the interviews. My skills gained from doing many group work assignments also helped during the group interview. I knew how to navigate, lead and be a team member of the group through the challenges. The ability to proactively ask when things are not clear helped me during the interviews as well, because candidates who did not have much exposure to the cultures other than Vietnam felt intimidated during the interview and did not feel confident when they had to ask questions. I think the experiences and skills I gained from my degree really gave me the edge during the application process.
What did you do at university that you think gave you a competitive advantage in the job market in your home-country?
During the time at Exeter, I was the co-founder of Bright Futures Exeter society, part of the men’s basketball club, and international student society. I was also part of the International Welcome Team and University of Exeter Business School ambassadors.
What were the biggest obstacles in gaining a graduate job in your home-country?
The biggest obstacle to me would be the culture and language. It may sound very funny and strange, because I am a Vietnamese, left Vietnam at the age of 18 and came back for a job in Vietnam after 6 years in the UK. Theoretically speaking things should have been all smooth and familiar. But to me, going back to Vietnam was a real culture shock. People do and think differently here. For instance, the Vietnamese in particular (and Asian people in general) may not say “thank you” and “sorry” as much and as often as we do in the UK; so when I did that, they looked at me differently simply because it was not common here. Regarding language, it also took me a while to get used to the professional terms in Vietnamese. My whole degree was in English so English accounting and finance terms like “income statement”, “balance sheet”, “bonds” are very familiar to me. But when I saw the terms in Vietnamese which were not taught in high school, I had absolutely no idea what they meant.
Salary is another thing. To big companies like PwC Vietnam, I was still a fresh graduate and the salary would be the same for all fresh graduates (regardless of where I got my degree from). So I did get the job, and the pay was okay but not as high as I had thought I might get. Don’t get me wrong. I still love my job and my workplace and would have not picked anything else. But I do hope the pay would be better. (Who doesn’t?!)
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were applying for opportunities?
I think we all make mistakes along the way and will always say “I wish I knew blah blah blah”. But perhaps just embrace the journey. If you are still at university, use Career Zone or whatever it is called now as much as you can. Do as much research as you can before applying for a job and be yourself in the interview. You will be just fine.
What is your advice for any international student seeking a career in the financial services and wanting to follow a similar path to you?
Keep an eye on what’s going on around you. There are TP issues everywhere you go.
End of interview.
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