Remembering an Exceptional Friend: Unforgetable Lim Eng Seng

Someone wise once remarked:

‘ Ask not what a man stands for. Watch instead for what he does in real life ‘.

That quote aptly sums up the life, times and vast contributions of a dear friend named Lim Eng Seng, better known to all his colleagues and good friends as ES.

In late July 2015, it will be a decade since he left us quite unexpectedly.

SHEER DETERMINATION and INGENUITY

ES was an unusual human being in many ways. He was first and foremost, a gentle, kind and generous person by nature.

Despite coming from a humble and socio-economically disadvantaged background, he managed by sheer grit, determination and ingenuity to overcome many obstacles and become a chartered management accountant.

There are, of course, a number of individuals like that. But in the case of ES, it came quite naturally to him. It was in his DNA! The great Shakespeare would add that: “ He had the milk of human kindness in him ‘. And that was an understatement!

Despite coming from a humble and socio-economically disadvantaged background, he managed by sheer grit, determination and ingenuity to overcome many obstacles and become a chartered management accountant.

That was a huge achievement when I tell you that at that time in Malaysia there were no colleges offering face to face tuition for the tough CIMA professional accounting examinations. ES together with a few friends in a similar predicament overcame that handicap by buying US text books printed in India ( student editions ) at a low cost and used these books to prepare for a British professional accounting examination. They did not buy a book each but rather shared the use of the books that they bought. Now that was a classic example of how to think out of the box!

To his great credit, he passed the final examinations through this disciplined, tough mature study route.

CHARTED HIS CAREER PROGRESSION

Career wise, he began his professional life with a Big 4 firm, Coopers & Lybrand.

A few years later, after having gained some relevant and valuable experience, he took on the challenging role of financial controller with an established commercial organisation.

He then made a career defining move by starting his own public practice in the early eighties. His dear wife, Katherine also a professional accountant ( ACCA ) joined him later on and took on the leadership role in the taxation division of his growing public practice.

They have three lovely and successful children, Hui Rong, Hui Wei and Deyao. All three who incidentally share the values and principles of their parents, completed their higher education in Australian universities and two of them are also professional accountants!

The early years spent developing and growing his public practice were tough and challenging but ES was no quitter. With determination, the goodwill and support of clients and professionalism he persevered and built up his practice. Today the ES Lim group of companies are a thriving reality.

His staff saw him as much more than an employer. He was also their friend, counsellor and mentor. He introduced the Monday Morning Action session at his public practice. This was a good move to give the staff a chance to share and widen their professional knowledge as well as improve their social and communication skills.

TRUE BLUE COMMUNITY SERVICE ENTHUSIAST

As far as Kiwanis International is concerned, ES was a true blue community service enthusiast. He joined the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur in the early eighties. His leadership potential was quickly noted. In addition, he had developed excellent human relations skills. He was, in many ways, a self made man and a person who saw himself as not just an accountant but more importantly as a professional.

ES set the gold standard as far as presidencies go by a most distinguished tenure as president of the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur. Not many will remember that the famous Kiwanis Motoring Treasure Hunt, now in its thirty first year, was actually initiated when ES was president of the club. Many other clubs, associations, societies and even companies have jumped on the bandwagon and have begun organising Motoring Treasure Hunts. The Kiwanis Motoring Treasure Hunt however remains the undisputed, pre eminent one!

The principal architect of the early growth of Kiwanis Clubs in Malaysia was ES. Together with four or five diehard Kiwanians, they were responsible for the formation of about ten clubs in the country. One has to remember that all these club building activities were carried out essentially on their own and by utilising their own resources. There was no financial support from Kiwanis International… just moral support.

By his endearing charisma, ES was able to inspire his team to build these clubs in Malaysia. ES then went on to become the Area Co-ordinator for Kiwanis Malaysia during the period before Kiwanis Malaysia was granted District status.

INDIVIDUAL OF UNCOMMON INTEGRITY

ES continued in this vein in the professional sphere. He generously gave much of his time, assistance, ideas and expertise for more than twenty years to CIMA Malaysia Division and later on to CIMA Council in London. During this long period, he took on the roles of treasurer, secretary and vice president at different times before finally being elected president of CIMA Malaysia Division.

He continued to contribute with great dedication when he was elected CIMA’s Council Member for S.E. Asia. For over seven years, he faithfully travelled to London three or four times a year to attend and participate actively in the Council Meetings. No CIMA member served the Institute with greater passion, commitment and sincerity than ES. To many in the UK and in Malaysia, he was CIMA Malaysia!

UNCANNY ABILITY TO ANALYSE ISSUES

He was an extremely kind and generous professional who had the uncanny ability to see and analyse issues with great clarity. He was also straightforward in the way he went about conveying his views, sometimes to the surprise and dismay of others, if he felt strongly enough about a particular issue or policy matter.

ES did not choose to play safe or to play to the gallery and was prepared to speak up if he was convinced about an issue of concern. He made it a point to study an issue of importance thoroughly and sought counsel from like minded colleagues on the approach he was advocating.

I still have the book he presented to me: True ProfessionalismThe Courage to Care About your People, Your Clients and Your Career by David H Maister, a former professor at the Harvard Business School. He confided to me that this book was his ready reference guide especially when he faced professional issues. I too have found the book a good and useful read.

ES was always, as far as I can remember, cool, calm and composed even in a tense situation and when problems surfaced.

ES also prepared meticulously for each divisional council meeting and more so for each council meeting in the United Kingdom. Such was his commitment to holding high office. He used to remark that with high honour came high responsibility. It was clear to all that here was an individual who took his responsibilities very seriously.

It was certainly fitting therefore that a month before his untimely demise, CIMA chose to honour him for his distinguished service with its prestigious Silver Medal.

GOOD LISTENER and CONSUMMATE COUNSELOR

ES was always, as far as I can remember, cool, calm and composed even in a tense situation and when problems surfaced. He had developed over the years, a good listening ear and a sympathetic attitude that coloured his approach to the problem or issue. Many of his staff, colleagues, associates and even friends often turned to him when they needed to discuss some problem or issue.

I also know of a few people, fellow accountants, company secretaries and even contractors and housing developers who he had generously helped career wise or professionally.

On my part, I am pleased to readily acknowledge that he played a significant role in my career success when I joined CIMA Malaysia as its divisional director in April 1990. In addition, he provided unstinting support and advice along the way and he did so in a quiet, dignified and helpful manner.

And it did not end there.

ES also played a part in my entry to ACCA initially as its special adviser for Malaysia and later as its special adviser for ASEAN. Together with the others whom he helped so generously, we all remain eternally grateful to ES for his wise counsel, support and assistance.

WONDERFUL LEGACY TO CHERISH

A giant among professionals and community service enthusiasts who we were all privileged to call a dear friend has certainly left a huge void which will be hard to fill. However, it is wonderful to know that even after ten years his considerable impact on all of us remains undiminished. Yes, let me repeat that, undiminished!

Family members, staff, associates and friends can recall at will certain episodes, stories and incidents with amazing clarity. His many contributions and legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of those with whom he came in contact with. The family, now led by his wife Katherine, will ensure that the grandchildren who did not get to know their grandfather, will certainly get to know him vicariously through poignant photographs, stories, values and principles that he had embraced wholeheartedly during his lifetime.

Such a man touched so many lives in many wonderful and different ways. There is no denying that ES has certainly left his larger than life footprints firmly embedded in the sands of time.

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13 thoughts on “Remembering an Exceptional Friend: Unforgetable Lim Eng Seng

  1. Ben , I really enjoy your superbly crafted style of memoirs recollection of matters close to my heart. Very down to earth English language with little frills but zaps me with great reading pleasure nonetheless ! Hats off to you, my dear true friend.

  2. Ben, great write up of our dear friend ES a.k.a Tai Kor and his legacy for us to cherish.
    Couldn’t agree more. I quote ” ES
    considerable impact on all of us remains undiminished”.

  3. True in all respect . . . I was with E.S. as an Audit Manager and my exposure and learning process were achieved through E.S.’ ways of training and re-training that had made me who I am today…… A great thank YOU …….. Ben ……….. nobody could have written so correctly…..

  4. True in all respects . . . I was with E.S. as an Audit Manager and my exposure and learning process were achieved through E.S.’ ways of training and re-training that had made me who I am today…… A great thank YOU …….. Ben ……….. nobody could have written so correctly…..

    1. It is generous of you to remember and acknowledge ES’s role in your professional development Chris. I have heard so many such stories from friends and associates.
      ES gave and gave generously of his time, experience and expertise and did so with amazing grace and dignity. Thanks for the kind sentiments. Cheers.

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