Ms Cecilia Lee Sau-wai
Honorary University Fellow (2019)
Ms Cecilia Lee is widely recognised as a successful managerial executive in the accounting field, and an advisor to the Government on gifted education and the Mandatory Provident Fund. She is also a staunch supporter of HKBU. She began her career at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, one of the “Big Four” international accounting firms. After working at Deloitte Australia for three years, she returned to Hong Kong and was made a partner shortly afterwards. Ms Lee speaks of her 32 years at Deloitte as a journey of commitment and loyalty, so much so that she realises that, to revise a common Chinese saying, “the fish can still become strong without having to jump from pond to pond”.
“To do anything, one needs to have a clear goal,” she says. Persistence will prevail over hardship, she adds. While attending university in Australia, Ms Lee engaged in part-time work three days a week in hotels and restaurants in order to help pay for her tuition. Her mind was set on becoming an accountant, and she was prepared to sacrifice sleep and leisure time to achieve her goals. She recalls confining herself in a room to study assiduously for the Certified Public Accountant Examination and she remained focused even when her young son came bumping up against her door in his baby walker. Over the years, with her husband and son’s understanding and unlimited support, she could concentrate on her work and other social services.
Ms Lee obtained her bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1986 and a master’s degree in Commerce in 1988. After graduation, she was admitted as a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia in 1990 and the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants in 1991. Ever willing to take on challenges, she ran for the position of Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia – Hong Kong Group despite not yet being a partner of the firm. Due to her excellent planning and preparation, she won the election and became the youngest chairman of the Group at that time.
Ms Lee has consistently contributed to the development of the community with her professional knowledge. Her public service includes being a member of the Education Bureau’s Advisory Committee on Gifted Education; Chairperson of the Joint Committee on Student Finance, which falls under the Government’s Working Family and Student Financial Assistance Agency; a panel member of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Appeal Board; Chairperson of the Audit Committee of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority; and a member of the Financial Reporting Council, to name but a few. She was appointed Justice of the Peace by the HKSAR Government in 2017.
One of the hallmarks of Ms Lee’s professional life is her determination to pass on her knowledge to her younger colleagues, as well as to the students whom she comes across. Reflecting on her career, she was deeply inspired by two chief executive officers at Deloitte. Metaphorically speaking, in terms of administrative and management skills, one taught her the practice of Tai Chi, while the other imparted to her the martial art of Hung Kuen. Through them, she learnt that as a member of senior management she must be committed, fair and impartial, and know the art of balance in order to uphold the correct values and do the right thing. She believes that those in management positions should transmit knowledge and explain challenges to others, with the eagerness to see things through. It is also important to follow up on colleagues’ growth. The same goes for community service, as by “doing the right thing”, Ms Lee believes that communities can thrive. From facilitating Deloitte becoming a carbon-neutral company, to supporting the introduction of financial assistance for students from working families, Ms Lee takes every opportunity to impart her professional knowledge and life experience to those in need.
When asked how she convinces young people to establish their goals and strive towards excellence, Ms Lee reckons that life is fair, but that chance only favours those who work hard and are prepared. There is a saying that “failure is the mother of success”, but actually the truth is that “success breeds success”. From failure comes lessons, but from success comes motivation for more success. Thus to achieve success, one has to prepare well and do what one can and leave the rest to God. She deeply believes that with her own strength and motivation, she can make an impact at Deloitte.
Indeed, Ms Lee has been closely connected with HKBU since 2005. She has made valuable contributions to the University as a member of the Council, and its Audit Committee and Finance Committee. Ms Lee has also rendered her strong support to the HKBU Foundation as a member of its Board of Governors and has served as a School Manager of the HKBU Affiliated School Wong Kam Fai Secondary and Primary School. A successful executive who displays great perseverance and dedication, Ms Cecilia Lee has exerted a positive and lasting influence on innumerable people throughout her life. In recognition of her longstanding public service, her devotion to social responsibility, and her exemplary character, HKBU is pleased to award Ms Cecilia SW Lee an Honorary University Fellowship.