Name: Myo Min Htwe
Job Title: Managing Director
Employer: Win Consulting Ltd
Profession: Financial and Business Consultant
MI: How did you begin your career in Myanmar? How did you arrive at your current position today?
MMh: I graduated in Commerce from the Yangon Institute of Economics back in 1993. Then, I pursued Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Course (two years) and at the same time served as Article Apprentice at Auditor General Office from 1994 to 1996. After passing the CPA examination and completing the training, I joined Win Thin and Associates (WTA) as a senior auditor. In 1997, when WTA set up a joint venture company, namely SGV-WIN THIN Consulting Ltd with SGV International of Hong Kong (itself an affiliate of former audit firm Arthur Andersen and one of the Big “5”). I became a tax senior executive due to my interest in tax matters. The JV company was deactivated in 2000. Just prior to deactivation, Win Consulting Ltd was set up by WTA as a 100% Myanmar Company. I became the Managing Director from then until now. It has been fourteen long and eventful years and a total of eighteen years including working for WTA & SGV-WIN THIN Consulting Ltd.
MI: What is a typical consulting assignment like?
MMh: It is typically very much start-up business focused, with advice on Foreign Investment Law (FIL), Myanmar Companies Act (MCA), local Tax Laws and Regulations, Labour Laws, etc.
MI: How do the clients normally know about your firm?
MMh: U Win Thin, our Chairman, has been practicing as a Certified Public Accountant since 1958. So, the continuity of service and brand are there. That’s how the local clients were drawn to us. We have many tie ups with international firm setups such as SGV (one of the member firms of Arthur Andersen) in 1997 to PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers, Singapore) in 2012, drawing foreign clients into our operation.
Of course, the rest is due to our reputation, service performance and recommendations made by clients.
MI: Do you see any of your firm having to change or adapt to Myanmar’s new trends and its opening up to international markets?
MMh: Nowadays, international consulting companies are establishing branches or their subsidiary companies in Myanmar too. So there is more competition and tougher competition from global firms. We have to upgrade the capacity of our staff quickly through training and keeping abreast of changes in policies and regulations.
We also realize that there are more opportunities for qualified staff and we are also hiring more staff to take advantage of the opportunities.
MI: How do you feel that foreign companies now entering into business here will affect the local workforce, and do you feel that they will bring new opportunities to existing local businesses?
MMh: In general there will be better employment opportunities for the local workforce. More factories are being set up under the new FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) Law in place. It is now a lot easier for locals to find jobs. From the business perspective, foreign companies are tying up with local companies and the local companies can now obtain funding and technology transfer better than last time. They now have a chance to be more successful.
MI: Could you briefly explain the differences of Myanmar company law versus our neighboring ASEAN countries? How do these laws affect foreign investors?
MMh: Our MCA came from British Common Law in 1914. So it is quite similar to our former British colony neighbors e.g. Malaysia, India, etc. There are some unique things about our MCA:
- For certain countries, they need to have a local citizen or resident, to form a company in the respective countries. In MCA, there are no such requirements. Foreigners can form a company by themselves in Myanmar.
- According to MCA, there shall be at least two directors in the Board. Many other countries permit a sole director.
- There is no requirement to appoint a company secretary in Myanmar. It is not compulsory.
- The Company cannot buy its own shares.
MI: If you were, hypothetically, entering into business for the first time in Myanmar, what are the key factors of consideration; and what would be the typical issues that you would like to address before investing?
MMh: I would expect the foreign entity to do market research for the business to be carried out in Myanmar or a feasibility study if they would like to make FDI. Knowledge of rules and regulations governing company law, taxation, banking facilities, FIL, labour law, dividend payment, etc. For manufacturing entities, they should enquire about land lease and prices first.
MI: From a business standpoint, what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing your firm in the next 1-3 years? As the largest consultancy firm in Myanmar, what are the steps your company is doing to address these issues?
MMh: The first challenge would be staff turnover. I am sure it is not solely faced by us. There is a major issue facing all companies here to recruit and retain qualified people. The second challenge is also staff related: finding qualified and knowledgeable people to deal with foreign investors to advise them on legal issues. Normally, we practice a bit of over employment to address the first issue. We also train our people very regularly and we try to retain them with not just financial benefits, but also other incentives.
MI: How do you see Myanmar comparing with its Asian neighbors in the short and long term future?
MMh: Technical skills and know how are needed before we even try to compete. It also depends on our speed of economic development, which in turn depends on FDI. The government has been attracting foreign investors by putting in place FDI laws, SEZ (Special Economic Zone) laws, etc. The more FDI we get, the faster will be the economic growth and the faster we can catch up. E.g., Government issued telecom licenses to foreign entities and within a couple of years; we can expect to be on par with neighboring countries.
MI: If you could make one major change in the country to make it more competitive, what would it be?
MMh: We need to build more industrial zones/parks. Foreign investors want to invest, but they are turned off by high land prices. I therefore believe more industrial zones/parks and reasonable land rent will help. The government is implementing Special Economic Zones like Thilawa, etc., but more are needed.
MI: What would be your advice to the future Accountants/CPA on their roles to modern business world that Myanmar is gradually exposed to?
MMh: I am in advisory role, so I would ask them to work towards that role. Learn and update themselves on laws and regulations changes. I would also encourage them to try harder to compete and be able to give sound advice to investors.