Published on 14 Sep 2023


To Henry Tan, Group CEO and Chief Innovation Officer of accounting firm CLA Global TS, giving back is about “creating opportunities for our communities”. He shares with NBS in an interview how it all began with a scholarship.

Mr. Tan started his career at KPMG as an auditor. In 1993, he co-founded Tan & Sitoh Associates. The company rebranded itself twice before it became known as CLA Global TS.   

As the Group CEO and Chief Innovation Officer, Mr. Tan leads a 300-strong team towards achieving the company’s vision to “create winning opportunities for our people, clients and communities”, offering a full spectrum of services ranging from risk advisory and sustainability reporting to mergers and acquisitions. 


Henry Tan CLA Global TS - networking

Far right: Henry Tan, Group CEO & Chief Innovation Officer, CLA Global TS, 
loves building networks and interacting with communities. 


Mr. Tan believes that being an accountant goes beyond ensuring the accuracy and compliance of financial documents and operations. It’s a profession where “I can help many people and businesses to grow and make a living,” says the NBS alumnus who has a bachelor’s in accountancy.

He is a firm believer that enough opportunities should be created for future hires. That’s why the company has been awarding scholarships to underprivileged tertiary students since 2009. He adds that the scholarship allows students to focus on their learning and helps boost their self-confidence.

Mr. Tan was Chairman of the NBS Alumni Advisory Board from 2014 to 2020 and played an instrumental role in strengthening the ties between graduates and the school. Under his stewardship, the board also supported the launch of the Equal Opportunity Fund in 2019. It funds overseas internships and exchange programmes for underprivileged students.  

Giving back is integral to the effective leadership that Mr. Tan strives to model. “I want to build an ecosystem that encourages innovation and empowers our people to push boundaries to achieve both organisational and personal goals,” says this father of two boys. 

“I seek to be a servant leader by serving those who work with us. I refer to sharing resources, support, direction, and opportunities by serving. It’s always more blessed to give than to receive. And helping others to learn to fish is more sustainable than giving them fish.”  

Your company CLA Global TS has awarded more than 25 scholarships to underprivileged tertiary students. What inspired this?  

Having received a scholarship in my undergraduate years, I experienced first-hand how financial aid can make a difference for students. I could focus on learning and not worry about expenses. Although my parents could support my university education, the scholarship boosted my confidence greatly whenever they shared with others that I had little financial support from them.


Henry Tan

Henry Tan’s accounting firm CLA Global TS has awarded more than 25 scholarships to
underprivileged tertiary students since 2009. He says such financial support allows them

to focus on their learning and helps boost their self-confidence.    


We see scholarships as means to encourage the growth of the accountancy profession and to support needy students. The first scholarships were given to accountancy students at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University and Singapore Institute of Management. When the pandemic hit Singapore, we even tripled the number of scholarships and book prizes.  

Scholarships also increase the opportunities for students – we want to address the divergence among university, polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates. Those who didn’t do well academically should also be allowed to pursue learning and a career that best suits them. We are working with the ITE College Central to develop a scholarship and training programme for business students. 

You graduated with First Class honours in Accountancy in 1988. Why accountancy? 

My parents were entrepreneurs and I used to help them pack ornamental fish for export as a child. That helped me to quickly learn to count in groups of four or five – yes, I mastered multiplication early in life! I studied double maths and double sciences in junior college. I knew I was good with numbers, so I focused on that. I’m still thankful for making that decision! 


Henry Tan

Henry Tan’s favourite ways to unwind include playing golf, travelling, and enjoying good food. 


Even while managing CLA Global TS and serving on the boards of many companies and organisations – you found time to give back to NBS as Chairman of its Alumni Advisory Board from 2014 to 2022. How did you manage to do that?

I benefited greatly from my time at NBS and would like to share my journey, knowledge and experience with the new generation of students. As Chairman of its Alumni Advisory Board, I sought to encourage and support students as they pursue their career goals. We are also helping young local talents who can contribute positively to the economy. 

How do I find the time to give back while juggling many other responsibilities? The secret is to trust the people that I work with. I try to delegate and guide, but if required, I want to be able to help solve any problems that may crop up. 


Henry Tan

Henry Tan says giving back allows him to connect with 
like-minded people and effect positive change together. 

How has giving back contributed to your journey as an entrepreneur?

Giving back connects me with like-minded people and allows us to work together to achieve local and global impact. Let me share an example. When I was the president of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, we started a scholarship endowment fund for NBS, with money contributed by members voluntarily. It continues to support one NBS student every year. 

Employees and clients are more willing to engage with a firm that believes in and does good. All this helps to build a positive corporate purpose, strengthening brand awareness, loyalty and retention. 



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