Professor, École des Ponts Business School
- Module(s): Accounting Basics
At the moment, my primary interests include: a) how financial accounting keeps pace with technological innovation, especially the complexity of revenue recognition method under the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the context of multiple deliverables; b) what is the impact of a company’s accounting choice on its company valuation; c) market efficiency: whether a change in accounting method can affect firm value; and d) whether managers should be granted flexibility to reflect the economic reality of innovative tech products and minimize room for manipulation of financial disclosure.
I learned a lot through first-hand experience in the financial industry. I started my business career as management trainee at ING Bank in 1995, right after the rogue trader Nick Leeson shook the financial world by causing the spectacular collapse of Barings Bank, the oldest merchant bank in Britain, through fraudulent, unauthorized speculative trades. I joined ING Barings N.V. as financial controller shortly after ING acquired Barings for the nominal sum of £1 and assumed all of Barings’ liabilities. Like any younger analyst at an investment bank, I spent an average 100 hours per week crunching numbers and preparing monthly, quarterly and annual financial reports for the regional office (the Greater China area), the European headquarters in Amsterdam, as well as preparing financial reports for the Chinese central bank and the Stock Exchange Commission. The three years I spent performing such work helped me to develop a solid fundamental understanding of financial reporting.
Upon graduating from my MBA at Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées (yes I am ENPC alumni, class 2000), I worked as a business developer at Winstar communications in Brussels. My job responsibilities evolved into evaluating investment projects of acquiring wireless bandwidth from European regulators. This working experience further enriched my knowledge of financial modeling & valuation analysis of capital investment projects.
Besides my professional experience, my other most important source of learning is actually from teaching students! In fact, I think the person who learns the most in any classroom is the teacher and every time when I walk into the classroom, I am always looking forward to “helping students learn” as well as learning from them.
Nothing in my academic professional life brings me greater joy and exhilaration than giving a lecture where students are learning and engaged. And there is nothing that brings more satisfaction than helping students combine their past knowledge with the new knowledge and skills they learned in the classroom to solve real life problems.
Just as each student’s past knowledge and experiences are different, so too is each student’s interpretation and understanding of my lecture. I always enjoy learning from my students and feel greatly rewarded by my interactions with them.
New students in my class commonly have a big misconception about the course: accounting is just about numbers! Accounting is not about numbers! Numbers are merely the medium through which values, and the changes to these values, are expressed. Accounting is as much as an art as science!
The goal of my class is not to train students to become accountants, but to help them develop a broad managerial decision making perspective. Some accounting courses especially on the undergraduate level, are designed for students with major in accounting who want to purse accounting career. At business school, the objective is to make students better managers by enabling them to understand the basic accounting concepts and principals and to use accounting information as a tool to help them (future managers) to make informed managerial decision or to improve the quality of decision making. For instance, undergraduate accounting is focused on bookkeeping. Students are taught how to record business transactions in journals, and then post to general ledger and finally prepare financial statements. On the graduate level, the course is more focused on how to use the accounting information to make business decisions. This perspective is essential to helping the students understand how accounting is a vital tool to making informed business decisions.
Most people think accounting is drop dead boring. Me, I am continuously surprised by its power and applicability as an art. I hope I am able to provide students with a glimpse of its beauty, but at the same time raise their awareness of the dark side of the financial reporting by examining some of the biggest accounting scandals of all time. Hopefully we’ll all become more mindful when it comes to ethical decision making situations and be better protected against the dark side.
Speaking about choosing sides, here’s some wisdom from a galaxy far far away: “Dark side, it is easier, quicker, and more seductive, but remember, do or do not, there is NO TRY, choose wisely!”