KPMG internship shines a light on bustling Indonesia

Upon arriving in Jakarta, KPMG intern Thomas Kim was blown away by the hustle and bustle of the city but quickly found his feet - putting his university education to work helping the KPMG tax team and their clients. Having now returned to New Zealand, his time in Indonesia has fostered in him an interest in Asian economics and politics and provided him with skills he believes will benefit him throughout his career.
Thomas sitting at a potters wheel giving a thumbs up

Among other activities while visiting Bali for the Christmas break, Thomas tried his hand on a potters wheel

Ever since going on exchange during University, I have always wanted to live and work overseas. However, it’s not easy gaining overseas employment early in your career as a New Zealand-educated graduate, which is why I applied for this opportunity with KPMG when I came across it on the Asia New Zealand Foundation website.
I was selected for the KPMG Indonesia internship within their transfer pricing division. Sitting under the tax division, the team provides advisory services to large multinational companies with related-party transactions.Having studied law and commerce as well as working in corporate tax, this placement was a perfect match.  
Being an offshore internship, I was excited to gain direct overseas work experience. Arriving in the bustling city of Jakarta, I was hit with a vibrant atmosphere, lively crowds, and honking cars.

You can do all the reading you like about a place like Jakarta and it won't prepare you for the actual experience of being there.

Jakarta is busy, fast, and a bit chaotic.

What stood out to me immediately was the amount of traffic on the road. Too many cars competing for the tiniest space, with motorcycles weaving through the smallest of gaps. 

My first day at work revolved around onboarding and e-learning modules, and then I officially started in the transfer pricing team.

Everyone was super welcoming and made me feel at home right away.

Initially, it was a slow pipeline of jobs as the managers took the time to figure out what work they could give me.

Given I don’t speak Bahasa Indonesian (everyone was really receptive to the words and phrases I learnt) the breadth of work I could do was limited. This left me wondering the different ways in which I could add value.

Thomas: "Everyone was super welcoming and made me feel at home right away."

I quickly realised that I could leverage my previous corporate tax experience and with a little bit of google translate, I was able to assist in most of the daily work, such as reading financial statements and number-based assignments. 

One of the many exciting projects I was involved in was finding potential New Zealand-owned companies that operated in Indonesia.

I started by filtering large NZX-listed companies and collating them separately. I then manually searched whether they operated locally, looking at the company’s annual report and utilising google. We were left with a handful of entities that the partner was able to follow up on as potential clients.

Another personal favourite was the tax controversy works where we represented our client in the tax court.

It is extremely common for the local tax authority to challenge a company’s yearly tax return, which is where we as tax advisers provided assistance - gathering evidence and representing our client.    

For accommodation, I booked an Airbnb that was not too far from work near the central/south Jakarta area.

I was surprised to find that my Airbnb was right next to a shopping mall, but later found out that there were shopping malls everywhere! Outside of work, I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the shopping malls and even made a ranking list of my favourite ones.

But it wasn't all about shopping malls and busy roads. Visiting the oldest cathedral in Jakarta, which is still used for services today, provided insight into some of Indonesia's history and culture I was previously unaware of.

The cathedral was built by the Dutch when they occupied Indonesia during the 18th century. Right across the road from the cathedral stood the biggest mosque in Indonesia (and also the biggest in Southeast Asia).

Seeing both these temples of worship side by side illustrates how diverse Indonesia is in terms of both culture and religion.

A scenic shot of rice paddy fields, palm trees and lush vegetation

A visit to Bali provided Thomas with experience of a more tranquil side of Indonesia

During the Christmas and New Year break I visited Bali. From clear water beaches to the exquisite monkey forests, my time in Bali was amazing.

A guided tour involving white water rafting, snorkeling, visiting Hindu temples, and taking in the picturesque rice paddy fields allowed me to both tap in to my adventurous spirit and experience some of Bali's incredible culture.

Having access to a network of talented and seasoned professionals at KPMG, I gained immense insight into the Indonesian economy and Asia as a whole.

Through this internship, I was able to gain an appreciation of the growing economy of Indonesia; specifically, the abundant natural resources and labour market the country boasts.

However, with those resources comes extreme protectionist policies by the government of the day.

It was fascinating to see the macro effects of these policies and how they impacted the growth of the nation. My experience has fostered an interest in the realm of Asian economics and politics.

The size and growing importance of the economies of Asia means increasing numbers of international companies from New Zealand (and throughout the world) are expanding into the region.

Having experience and knowing how to navigate the business landscape in Indonesia (and insights to doing business in wider Asia) is a key skill I will be able to leverage in my future career prospects.  

The Foundation's Business Programme supports New Zealand companies to better understand Asia so they can make the most of opportunities in the region. We are also focussed on growing the next generation of Asia-savvy business leaders.

The internship programme provides opportunities for young New Zealanders to intern with companies in Asia and New Zealand companies and organisations working extensively in the region. The internship programme aims to help interns build a better understanding of the people, place and culture of their Asian host country, while developing industry-specific skills that will benefit them as they progress in their careers.