At a glance
Rick Hartono FCPA has always been comfortable in his own shoes. His ease with himself, as well as with others, has helped to shape what has already been an eclectic 18-year career in accounting and financial services.
Executive director and head of business risk and control management for group wholesale banking at United Overseas Bank (UOB) in Singapore, Hartono works at the front line to drive proactive risk ownership and accountability, promote ethical conduct, centralise oversight of non-financial risks and drive control enhancements.
Having migrated to Australia from Indonesia when he was five years old, Hartono knows what it’s like to be an outsider.
One of only a few students from an Asian background at his high school, he embraced the difference and took on the challenges that came his way.
“Being part of a minority actually helped me to build resilience, communicate better and think on my feet. It really paid off later in life,” he says.
Initially unsure of the career path he wanted to take, Hartono attended a career fair where accounting firms offered cadetships to undertake while completing a university degree. He decided on a role with Deloitte, while also working on his bachelor of business degree in the evenings.
After graduating and obtaining his CPA qualification, Hartono followed the direction of so many other young Australians – towards the UK. Relocating to London on a working holiday visa, he initially worked part-time at a television production company before securing a role in product control with a Swiss bank.
“I remember vividly that the guys beside me had degrees from some of the best universities in the UK,” Hartono says. “They gave me a look as if to say, ‘How the hell did you get here?’. But I took it in my stride and just tried to work harder than them, looking to add value in my role each day and build relationships with people within and outside the department.”
This mindset paid off. Initially apprehensive when the bank announced its plan to move certain functions to Singapore, Hartono took a secondment to train local staff. He was ultimately offered a permanent post in Singapore and went on to become the vice president of product control, managing 14 staff responsible for monitoring daily trading activity and ensuring that the traders’ books reflected fair market pricing of assigned portfolios.
Playing to his strengths
Hartono’s next significant career move came in 2010, and it was again his skill in reading a situation as much as his qualification that helped him along. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, internal auditing was in high demand, and the Singapore branch of a US bank had 10 positions available. This was all well and good, except that Hartono had no direct experience in this area.
He played to his strengths – knowledge acquired in product control, front-to-back process background and a strong willingness to learn. Internal auditors filled nine of the positions, and he got the tenth.
“If it was two or three positions, there was no way I would have gotten the role. I was lucky in that sense,” he says. “But I got my foot in the door, and again I just had to work hard to differentiate myself from my peers.”
Travelling extensively across South-East Asia in the role, he developed strong relationships, opening the door for a position in senior compliance management that covered regulatory reporting and later corporate treasury.
In the moment
In talking about his career moves, Hartono says his focus has been on the present and on adding value for stakeholders each day, rather than planning on changing roles every few years to work his way up the corporate ladder.
“I never consciously looked for bigger and better things,” he says.
“Some of my peers were at times too hung up on the next promotion.
“I’d say, just look at ways to get better at your current role.
“Your management and stakeholders will eventually see that you have outgrown it and give you more responsibility, or you would also be in consideration when another opportunity arises.”
Further education has also played its part in Hartono’s career journey. He holds an MBA with the Alliance Manchester Business School as well as a diploma in regulatory compliance, and is currently undertaking a diploma in financial crimes compliance.
As the years roll by, however, Hartono says that understanding people and appreciating cultural differences are perhaps more important than any certificate.
“As CPAs, it’s in our DNA to ensure strong controls and governance processes are put in place, but when you go through the ranks, it’s pretty clear – you need to have an agile mindset and good working relationships with people both inside and outside your organisation.”
One piece of advice
“Have interests outside of work to keep yourself balanced. In my case, that’s playing tennis with friends regularly and supporting my children’s pursuit of competitive sport.”