Eternal student

If there is one thing this accounting and management specialist has never passed up on, it’s the chance to add value to his knowledge. Nonstop learning has kept him ahead of the game.
Christopher Ferareza
P&A Grant Thornton

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent; it is those most adaptable to change.”

Charles Darwin’s famous statement certainly resonates with Christopher “Chris” Ferareza, a partner at P&A Grant Thornton for the past 23 years. Since graduating with a degree in accounting, summa cum laude, from Far Eastern University in 1998, he has never passed up on the chance to add value to his life. He says: “It is continuous learning [that] keeps us one step ahead of the game, and equips us with [the] necessary tools, as we navigate unchartered territories and unprecedented changes in today’s new normal.”

A decade after completing college, Chris attended the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), earning a masters degree in management. Then he enrolled in an executive leadership program at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution in the US East Coast. “I believe that in my chosen field of expertise, continuous learning is crucial,” Chris maintains. “More so now that there are various disruptions and challenges in the way we work because of the pandemic. To survive is to learn to adapt quickly.”

As a fresh graduate, Chris joined the accounting firm of Punongbayan and Araullo (P&A), founded by Benjamin R. Punongbayan and Jose G. Araullo, which, in 2002, became affiliated with Grant Thornton International. “At that time [2002], P&A Grant Thornton’s branches were strategically located in Cebu and Davao, with a satellite office in Cavite,” Chris reports. “I had the great opportunity of being head of branches for a number of years where, I believe, I was able to introduce significant improvements.”

Chris spent a decade working initially as a partner with the company’s auditing and assurance division. This year started on a high note for him. He left his position role as partner in-charge of audit and assurance of the Technical Training Group to assume a concurrent role as one of the advisory services partners of the firm.

Chris (second from right), a multi-awarded member of the Rotary Club of Makati (Baby
Rotarian of the Year-2013, Director of the Year-2017 and 2020, Chairman of the Year-2014
and 2019 and Rotarian of the Year -2017 and 2018) at Vice President Leni Robredo’s Dorm
Project in La Libertad, Negros Oriental, funded by Rotary in early 2020. With him are his
fellow club directors. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“My long-term plan is to gradually hone my skills and transition to become a full-time advisory services partner,” he says. “Having the necessary skill set is crucial to become a partner and to advance to senior roles at P&A Grant Thornton. One must not only have the competency required for the job, but also a sharp business acumen to be able to earn the trust of clients. In the end, partnership is always based on trust and strong relationships.”

Along the way, Chris enjoyed more opportunities to sharpen his competitive edge. He underwent a two-year stint at the Chicago, Illinois office of Grant Thornton USA, where he participated in one of the biggest financial reconstruction projects in the history of the US, involving a health-care provider.

“Grant Thornton offers a secondment program for its employees across its network of affiliate firms in various countries,” says Chris, reflecting on that work episode. “It is a transfer of office meant to fast track and streamline P&A’s integration into Grant Thornton’s global network. I was lucky to be one of those chosen for the program.

“It was a great experience, which ultimately broadened my horizons. I flew to the US, along with two contemporaries, to work in Grant Thornton’s office there. It was my first time to travel by plane, and from that point on, I got to experience new things, including living in a condominium and traveling to different sites across the US to work on financial reconstruction projects. These were my fondest experiences before becoming a partner of the firm.”

After three weeks of working there, he was offered permanent employment, which he declined. “I made a commitment to my boss here in the Philippines that I would return after my program,” he relates. “It was not a lost opportunity though, as I am grateful for the trust and projects that the firm has afforded me.”
Seizing opportunities

Chris is the eldest of seven children of Rodolfo Ferareza, a former military man, and Nenita, a housewife. His father, who passed away in 2019, juggled working as a gardener in the former Subic Naval Base and tending a vegetable farm on weekends. His mother sold the produce from their small farm in their local market. As their firstborn, Chris was tasked with several responsibilities that made him swiftly grow up. Besides minding his siblings, he helped raise goats and cows and pitched in with other chores. “That was my daily routine until I graduated from high school,” he recalls. “I remember that we set aside some of our produce to help fund my college education, but we lost most of them after the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991.

“After my graduation from high school, I decided to try my luck in Manila. the grace of God, I managed to survive, using the fruits of my investments in elementary and high school, with good grades and honors to qualify for a scholarship. After four years, I became a CPA (certified public accountant), and I was able to support my siblings’ education.”

Before settling on accountancy, however, Chris hoped to become a doctor. However, the cost of the course sidetracked him from pursuing that ambition. “Also, medicine takes much longer to complete,” he reasons. “That was when I decided to take up accountancy instead, which admittedly, I barely knew about. All I was told by my father was that accountants made good money.”

For Chris, his father remains his quintessential role model. “He was far from being perfect, but he always found strength in knowing that he gave his best in all his undertakings,” his son attests. “He may not have made the best decisions in life, but he made sure that I learned from it. Just like a good soldier, he often told me to shoot for the stars and aim high.

“He would also remind me that I should be decisive and quick to act when the opportunity presented itself. But the most important lesson I learned from him was respect for others, regardless of their stature in life. This is a philosophy that I will carry with me forever.”

“A Knight’s Tale,” a medieval adventure film directed by Brian Helgeland and starring the late Australian actor Heath Ledger, reminds him of an experience with his father. “It was a conversation I had with him the night before I first left home for Manila. He was like the dad of William, the character played by Heath, who was sending off his son with words of wisdom and to find his destiny. To this day, I still get teary-eyed whenever I watch that part of the film.”

To those contemplating a career in accountancy, Chris advises going for a reputable firm such as P&A Grant Thornton.

“P&A will not promise you the moon and the stars, but it is a company worth investing your time in,” he says. “Working for P&A remains one of the best decisions I made after passing the CPA licensure examinations. It is a professional training ground where your experiences with clients and colleagues will help hone and define your skill set.

“If you want to consider working for other firms, my tip is to choose a firm that shares your ideals and one where you feel most at home in.”

About me

My dad Rodolfo Ferareza

Complete my life’s mission

First paying job
As a student assistant, I was paid P500, and then, as a junior auditor at Punongbayan and Araullo, P7,000.

Morning ritual
Facing the mirror and smiling — my way of saying hello to myself and thanking God that I am still alive

Special skill
Auditing and farming

Time spent on social media
Thirty minutes to one hour daily