Accidental accounting graduate finds his forte in corporate governance

 Krishman in a suit.

Awarded a scholarship to pursue a degree that wasn’t his first choice, Krishman Varges found that majoring in accounting turned out to be the best thing he could have done for his career.

‘I was offered a scholarship by the Malaysian government to pursue a major in accounting. In all honesty, it was not a conscious undertaking at my end. However, in retrospect, I must say that a degree in the accounting discipline was pivotal as it equipped me with business acumen and analytical thinking,’ said Krishman.

Hailing from Klang in Selangor state, Krishman was awarded a scholarship to study at Swinburne’s Sarawak campus. Three years after graduating with his degree, he obtained a CPA Australia qualification in 2015. Krishman then took a job as an external audit associate with EY (previously Ernst & Young) before trying his hand at policymaking with national capital market regulator, Securities Commission Malaysia.

‘To my pleasant surprise, policymaking unleashed my ability to harness research materials from opposing sources, curate narratives and establish a case for change in terms of standard setting,’ he says.

Since 2017 Krishman has been specialising in board advisory and governance work with KPMG as an Associate Director where he undertakes corporate governance and board advisory work that spans board effectiveness evaluations, remuneration analyses, diagnostic assessments, policy formulation, constitution reviews, and validation exercises. ‘I deal with highly capitalised, large, public listed companies in heavily regulated industries – the sort that want everything spick and span. I also deal with high powered individuals, especially board members.’

Although he doesn’t practice as an accountant or an auditor in his current role, the knowledge he acquired from his accounting degree at Swinburne proved to be invaluable. ‘My education at Swinburne made me agile, transcending the notion of ‘bean counters’ or ‘number crunchers’. It enabled me to provide value added services to clients from a risk management and business advisory perspective, both of which form the bedrock of my job as a governance professional,’ says Krishman.

The self-learning and technology-based education he received at Swinburne, he says, allowed him to explore new modes of thinking and stay diligent. ‘As I am required to develop governance solutions for clients each with their different set of requirements, I have to constantly come up with new approaches. The emphasis on innovation in my education shaped my thinking and equipped me to challenge the norm.’

His lecturers, he recalls, had a profound impact on him. ‘I also owe an immeasurable amount of gratitude to my lecturers who recognised the potential in me and encouraged me to push the envelope. I would like to make special mention to Christina Yin (Communication and Language) as well as Joseph Eng (Contract Law and Company Law) who took relentless effort to burnish my communication and analytical skills.’

Krishman regards his role as co-author of a corporate governance guide commissioned by Malaysia’s national stock exchange as his biggest achievement. ‘The document is used by directors of public listed companies all over the country as a frame of reference. As part of this authoring process, I had to conduct stakeholder engagements, perform empirical research, gather anecdotes and curate narratives – foundational skills which were built during my tertiary days.’

While he has come a long way in his short career, Krishman hopes to make a difference to those looking to advance in theirs. As a committee member of the CPA Australia Young Professional Network, he provides career advice and guidance to students in the CPA Australia Professional Program. ‘Knowledge sharing gives me great gratification. As the saying goes, ‘knowledge sharing is power sharing’,’ he says.

Krishman is also a regular speaker on corporate governance, a trainer of boards for programs organised by professional bodies, and a guest columnist for Focus Malaysia and The Star where he writes on current issues in the governance sphere.