Family circumstances spur Lock’s rise in finance
ACCA offered vital opportunity
"It was the eldest’s responsibility to succeed, and then help the next sibling make it. You had one chance. You couldn’t afford to waste it."
So much of Lock Peng Kuan’s life and career was shaped by a family tragedy which turned his world upside down when he was just a boy.
‘I was 13 and my father died. It meant that a lot of what we had looked forward to as a family was suddenly taken away from us. It changed everything,’ he said.
The passing of the patriarch of the family meant that extra responsibilities were thrust onto the shoulders of the older children. It became their urgent responsibility to succeed in education, get good jobs, and to support the family.
‘Growing up, that was my aim. To work hard, and to succeed,’ said Lock.
‘My friends and colleagues who are accountants often tell me that their passion for numbers and finance was what drove them to take up accountancy. I have to be honest. My driving force was different. I chose accountancy because it seemed like the best route for a boy like me to land a well-paying job. In short, I chose accountancy for the opportunities and income it promised.’
His route to achieving his aim sounds very much like an obstacle course, thanks to the specific nature of Malaysia’s multi-lingual education system. He began school in Chinese; switched to Malay in high school; and sat pre-university exams in English - largely a foreign tongue for him. Still, he reached university - with the added pressure of knowing he had one shot at gaining a degree to start his journey towards becoming a professional accountant.
‘I had three elder brothers and sisters, and as a tradition it was the eldest’s responsibility to succeed, and then help the next sibling make it. You had one chance. You couldn’t afford to waste it,’ he said.
Lock gained his BA in accountancy and finance at Middlesex University in England, and then set out to carve a career back home in Malaysia; first, at GEP Associates where he began his ACCA studies, then PwC.
‘There was never a moment of doubt in my mind that I would go home to Malaysia,’ he said.
"I chose ACCA because it offered an opportunity to everyone regardless of background."
'Many young accountants headed towards greener pastures, like Singapore, Australia or the United Kingdom. I chose to stay in Malaysia. For one, my mother was alone. Secondly, family is very important to me. I was confident that I would not only find work in Malaysia, but also succeed in my home country. I studied the market carefully. The salaries might be low to start with, but they progressed quite steeply quite quickly, so I was confident that I could make a good living.
‘I chose ACCA because it offered an opportunity to everyone regardless of background. Because of my experiences in life, I hold this very closely to my heart.
‘ACCA held true to what it preached, and has given me exactly the chance I needed. I firmly believe in this philosophy till this day. This is why I am so proud to serve on Council. I am so happy that opportunity remains a big part of ACCA’s purpose, and I know it always will be.’
Lock is now managing partner, audit and assurance, at Baker Tilly in Kuala Lumpur, heading a section of the business with 300 staff. Almost half of them are ACCA members or future members.
‘My big interest is in understanding the business per se, not just the reporting function. We are doing a lot of specialist work with Malaysian businesses who are preparing their public offering’,’ he said.
‘There is a strong family culture at Baker Tilly and I enjoy that,’ he said. ‘Everyone is looking out for each other. That is a Malaysian trait that I treasure.
‘I love my work, and I love the ACCA connections’