Good performance on all accounts

by Grace Chan

Theresa Chan, President—Greater China
CPA Australia
Photo: Edde Ngan
International qualification opens the door to business achievement

Every year, more than 1,500 accounting graduates enter the recruitment market in Hong Kong. But career success depends on more than just a university degree—these days, the right professional qualifications, work experience and ongoing education are vital.

"All companies need accounting professionals," says Theresa Chan, president—Greater China, CPA Australia. "Graduates have the choice of specialising in audit, financial accounting, compliance, corporate restructuring, taxation and more. A great bonus is that experience gained in one function can be transferable to another," she adds.

Another catalyst driving demand for new accounting services is the evolving business environment. "Since the recent credit crunch, the spotlight has been on corporate governance and risk management. Tax authorities around the world are looking for additional source of revenue, driving demand for tax professionals. Another growing area is in reporting corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives," says Ms Chan.

While the profession offers ample opportunity for practitioners on all levels, the greatest demand is for those with more than three years' experience and leadership skills, she stresses.

Ms Chan advises all young accountants to work towards international qualifications. One good option is the CPA Australia designation, with a specific focus on global strategy and leadership.

Solid base

CPA Australia is one of the world's largest professional accounting bodies, with a global membership of more than 129,000 professionals across 110 countries. In the Greater China region, there are more than 12,000 members.

"In addition to providing participants with technical skills, our goal is to nurture future business leaders, bearing in mind that not all accountants develop their careers only in this profession," Ms Chan explains.

Through the CPA Program, CPAs hold a certification that is recognised by businesses around the world for their skills in strategy and leadership. The CPA Program aims to combine academic knowledge with practical experience, helping participants to sharpen their competence in developing and implementing strategy to translate visions into reality.

The programme provides various routes for people of different academic backgrounds to become a CPA (Aust.). "An individual's entry point is initially determined on assessment of previous education and experience," Ms Chan remarks.

Once they have joined CPA Australia, professionals have access to an array of educational programmes and networking activities. CPA Australia also offers continuing professional development (CPD) programmes on topics ranging from technical skills to leadership and presentation skills to ensure that members maintain and develop their professional competence.

Members of CPA Australia benefit from a wide array of seminars, workshops and conferences, as well as online learning resources, which help them to upgrade their professional knowledge, notes Ms Chan.

Annual congresses feature keynote speakers from the profession, sharing their experience and ideas on subjects ranging from the economy in general to business strategy, corporate governance and investment developments. Last year's event, attended by 400 Hong Kong and overseas members, also provided excellent networking opportunities.

Personal accomplishment

"As a CPA (Aust.), I help to keep the business focused on aspects of the numbers that they really need to activate and change. It is that kind of pivotal role that can help in many facets of business decisions," says Melissa Claassen, CFO, adidas Group (Hong Kong and Taiwan). "There are lots of networking activities and events where you can meet esteemed colleagues and discuss current business trends or new thoughts that are out there in the marketplace."

"A CPA Australia member is a well-rounded individual, both in technical accounting expertise as well as personality," notes John Hsu, Executive Director of Sales and Finance, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Asia Pacific.

"The CPA Program has given me a very international perspective, which has enabled me to go to these different countries and cultures to understand how they do business and, basically, what their mindset is," says Mr Hsu, who is one of the guest speakers for the upcoming CPA Australia information session in June to share with prospective members his experience towards the programme.

One of CPA Australia's key endeavours is to strengthen partnerships with employers. Early this year, the organisation held its sixth annual Global Opportunities—Career Market Day in Hong Kong, with nearly 20 accounting firms, banks and recruitment firms presenting career information and advice to around 1,500 attendees.

"The event has been well received, with both the number of recruiters and participants increasing over the years," says Ms Chan, who joined the profession in 1988 and is now a partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers Hong Kong, specialising in taxation.

"The accounting sector offers young professionals a rewarding career and great scope for personal achievement," she concludes.

The sum total

  • Accountants need professional qualifications to progress
  • Internationally recognised programme grooms future business leaders
  • Development initiatives and industry events promote networking and professional growth
  • Accounting body strengthens partnership with employers

Taken from Career Times 4 June 2010, A13

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