I am a Qualified Accountant & Forensic Expert Who Worked in Malaysia for 5 Years (And How You Can Too!)
- Hi, I am Bhavesh Lalwani, a qualified Chartered Accountant and Cost Accountant from India and CPA Australia. I am also a Certified Fraud Examiner from ACFE.
- Soon after I qualified as a CA, I got an opportunity to work in Malaysia at an Investigative and Forensic Accounting Firm.
- After 5 amazing years in Malaysia, I moved to my home country (India) to start my own CA Firm B Lalwani & Co Chartered Accountants where we specialize in Accounting, Auditing, Forensics and Investment planning, with clients in India and Malaysia.
- Here is my story How I Started my Career in Malaysia as an Expat and how you can do the same.
Walk Down the Memory Lane – How I Became a CA!
I was just an average guy in academics. I decided to become a Chartered Accountant only because my friends were pursuing CA!
Honestly, I was not sure whether I would be able to clear the exams. I knew that I could join the family business if CA did not work out.
In fact, since I had a fall-back option, I did not pressurize myself too much or get stressed. But hey, I did give it my best and I am so proud to say that I cleared all the three levels of CA at the first attempt.
And I became a Chartered Accountant in 2014...Woohoo!
I still wanted to study further and started pursuing CMA and cleared both the inter and final exams with an All India Rank.
Can you imagine that? A guy who was 'just average' in academics qualified to become a Chartered Accountant and CMA!
Working in India to Finding an Opportunity in Malaysia
After qualifying as a CA in the Nov 2013 attempt, I got selected to join a leading Indian Company – Tata Consultancy Services (aka TCS). I got this opportunity through Campus placement by ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India).
After just working for about 6 months, I realized that I was not enjoying my work…I wanted to experience something more. I know you may be thinking "quitting your first job after only 6 months?"
But you know I was sure this was not the role for me. So I decided to move on and started looking for other opportunities.
I started forwarding my CV to all the companies in my homecountry (India) whose vacancies I came across. I did get a few responses and one such response was from Alliance IFA (M) Sdn. Bhd., an Investigative and Forensic accounting firm in Malaysia!
I was really surprised and excited at the same time to get an interview call from a Forensic company in Malaysia!
So I decided to go ahead with the Skype interview. The interview went well and I was selected.
It was hard to believe that I got an opportunity in Malaysia...and that too just as I was just getting started with my career.
Later on, I gathered that they wanted to interview me because they were impressed with the kind of assignments I handled during my articles. Tip to all of you: Never take your articles for granted.
A Move to Malaysia Just Based on a Skype Interview?
I was happy that I had got an opportunity to work abroad and that too in Malaysia. But Did I just pack my bags and leave? NO.
I had to verify and see if the company was good. I was literally at a crossroads with my career and I knew that my next move could make or break my career.
How did I do the background check for a company in Malaysia while still in India? I firstly looked at the company website and found the names of their top management executives. I did thorough research on these top management personnel.
I even downloaded the financial statements of the company from ROC (SSM in Malaysia) by paying some charges.
Finally, after coming to the conclusion that it is a genuine company, I packed my bags and moved to Malaysia…starting the next phase of my life of working and living abroad.
Moving to Malaysia and Living...a Dream Life!
October 2014. I moved to Malaysia knowing nothing about the country. It was also my first international travel! Oh man, I was excited to get started with my new job.
Would you believe it? On the very second day, I was asked to travel from Kuala Lumpur (my job location) to Johor Bahru (another city in Malaysia) on a work assignment. Though I was apprehensive about being in a foreign country in the first few days, I soon started enjoying my time in Malaysia!
What is it like living and working in Malaysia? Malaysia is a multi-cultural democratic country with 60% of the population as Malay (Local Muslims), 25% Chinese, 10% Indians (mostly from South India) and balance other nationalities. The Indians and Chinese living there are 5th generation Malaysians.
During weekends, I would visit neighbouring countries. I visited Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Thanks to the work-life balance in Malaysia (more on it later) I was able to pursue CPA Australia and CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner, USA).
Quitting my Well-Paying Job in Malaysia to Start my Own
Forget about the fast lane. If you really want to fly, harness your power to your passion. Honor your calling. Everybody has one. Trust your heart, and success will come to you.
Life was going on great and it was a dream come true to work in Malaysia. I got married too. Things were really rosy but my desire to start something of my own kept haunting me.
I knew I was well within my comfort zone...and it was time to pursue my dream of starting my own business.
My wife supported my decision and encouraged me to venture out on my own. (I can never thank her enough for this.)
So, after working for 5 years in Malaysia, I decided to move to India and start my own CA practice B Lalwani & Co. I started with a few Malaysian companies (for whom I work remotely) and later expanded with a number of clients in India.
Did my experience in Malaysia help me in my entrepreneurial journey? YES! My job with the Malaysian Company helped me to understand various businesses and gain knowledge of various different sectors.
In forensic accounting, your job is multi-fold. You have to look at all the relevant transactions minutely; you must understand all the business processes; you need to understand the behaviour of the fraudsters; you must understand all the business cycles, the role of employees. In short, you have to understand the ins and outs of your client’s business.
My job as a Forensic Accountant has trained me to understand various businesses very minutely from the operational and more specifically from the financial aspects.
I do get asked a lot of questions about my work in Malaysia.
“What are the opportunities for expat CAs/ CPAs in Malaysia?”
The major part of the Malaysian economy is dependent on Palm Oil. There are various government and private organizations engaged in palm oil plantation and its further processing.
All major MNCs have their presence in Malaysia. So if you have MNC experience, there is a better chance for you to get a job in Malaysia. Expats are in high demand for Transfer pricing. Big 4 hire CAs/ CPAs in various departments like Transfer Pricing, SAP, Internal Audit, Forensics, Analytics, etc.Some of the CAs/ CPAs I know are CEO/CFO of Malaysian companies so again roles like Finance Director etc. In short, there are ample opportunities available in various sectors if you have expertise in the respective field.ICAI has an MRA with the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) and after appearing for a few papers qualified as a MIA Accountant. We also have the Malaysian chapter of ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) which was formed in 2018 and currently has more than 125 members.
“I am a CA/ CPA and want to move to Malaysia. What salary can I expect?”
The minimum salary to apply for an employment visa is MYR5,000 (approx 1300 USD ).
So any company hiring an expat must pay a minimum of MYR5,000. However, expats are usually paid a little higher than the local counterparts as they bring some edge with them.
If someone has the experience of, say, 5 years, he or she can expect somewhere around MYR10,000 (approx 2500 USD).
Is the cost of living in KL very high? How much do I need to spend (Save)?
The most preferred city for expats in Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur (KL). The job opportunities are also plenty here. There are few other well-known cities like Johor Bahru and Penang but most of the expats stay in KL!
The normal (not luxury) living expenses for two (you and spouse):
- Rent: MYR1,500 to MYR3,000 PM ( approx $500- $1000) for a 2-3 BHK apartment.
- Food: If you do your own cooking, MYR1,500 PM should be enough. Eating outside per meal per person may cost around MYR20 ( approx $7-10). Yes, that’s quite cheap.
- Transport: I preferred staying close to the workplace as the traffic in the morning and evening peak hours is the worst. Public transport is available but limited. Applying for a driving license is a tedious job.
- Water and Electricity expenses are minimal as electricity is not that expensive in Malaysia. You can expect it to be around MYR100 (approx $30) per month.
- Wi-Fi: For MYR100-MYR150 ( approx 30-60 USD) you can get a good quality Wi-Fi connection.
- Phone: You can get a postpaid sim card which will provide enough data and voice calling for MYR100 ($30) per month.
“I want to find a job in Malaysia. Where do I start?”
LinkedIn is one of the best platforms for job hunting.
Apart from LinkedIn, Jobstreet.com is widely used to apply for available vacancies.
Extra Tip: Once you apply for any vacancy on any job portal, look for the email address of the HR on the company website. Send an email to the HR attaching your CV. This is how I got noticed among the bulk of CVs received by the company from various job portals.
“Visa and work permit rules to work in Malaysia?"
The Citizenship rules of Malaysia are very strict, unlike Canada and Australia, they don’t provide citizenship that easily!
I know a few expat CAs working in Malaysia for more than 25 years and they yet have to get their long term visa renewed. Luckily, the Malaysian government had announced RP-T (residence pass for talent) wherein you can apply for a long term 10-year visa if you satisfy a few conditions like Salary of more than MYR10,000, stay for more than 3 years, etc.
Note: Employment visa cost is borne by the employer.
A word of caution: Never travel on a tourist visa if any company asks you to do so.
“I need a work-life balance. Can I expect the same?”
Good News...You can have a better work-life balance if you work in Malaysia!
People around you are polite, friendly and ready to help.
When compared to countries like Dubai, Canada and Australia etc the salary in Malaysia would be less, of course. However, you can earn enough and save enough by leading a balanced healthy lifestyle.
“As an Expat CA, what chances do I have for being selected for a job in Malaysia?”
To find a job in Malaysia is not that easy, as Malaysian companies mostly prefer local guys. You need to have some extra edge to get a job.
Your experience in your chosen field plays an important role as you are competing with locals. To hire you, the employer has to bear an extra cost to bring you to Malaysia. So, it is important that you have an edge over the local guys in terms of experience and expertise. Any international experience is an added advantage.
It is difficult as a fresher to get a job in Malaysia, so try getting enough experience in your field and then apply for overseas opportunities. Start sending CVs, draft proper emails while sending a CV.
Also, beware of various recruitment scams...No Malaysian company will charge you for immigration work.
Working in Malaysia has had a great influence on me as a person. It has helped me to take independent decisions. I learned about new cultures and was able to widen my professional network.
If you have never worked abroad and want to work in a smaller country with a proper work-life balance (and amazingly kind people), and if you are okay with the tropical climate (there is no winter and it can rain at any time and any day of the year)...Malaysia is the right choice for you!
Bhavesh Lalwani has international experience. He started his own CA Firm B Lalwani & Co Chartered Accountants where we specialize in Accounting, Auditing, Forensics and Investment planning, with clients in India and Malaysia.
Now It's Your Turn...
Do you want to make a leap in your career? What are you waiting for, then? Take the inspiration from Bhavesh Lalwani's story and just go for it.
We are eager to know your story. Comment below and don’t forget to share it with your friends.
(Article Edited by CA. Uma Krishna & Image by Ankit Lodhi)
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