With Hong Kong's economy once again expanding rapidly, the demand for qualified accountants has never been greater.
Employers in many sectors are on the lookout for audit and accounting professionals with the necessary expertise to oversee finance departments, monitor compliance activities and reduce financial risk.
Clement Chan, director of audit and assurance for Horwath Hong Kong CPA Limited, says demand for professional accountants has taken off to the point where is it outpacing the supply of available talent. "It's particularly difficult to fill the middle management and senior positions," Mr Chan says. "The China market is adding to the demand."
It is fulfilling work and there are good opportunities for career progression
In his opinion, market forces will come into play. So, if local educational institutes have trouble producing enough accounting graduates to meet demand, remuneration packages will be adjusted to attract experienced accountants from overseas.
A similar process has seen more Hong Kong accountants taking up mainland-based jobs in recent years. Their roles often involve helping Chinese companies attract foreign investors, so they can move to the next phase of strategic expansion. In other cases, they are assisting with plans for a public listing for the purposes of raising capital. Either way, the companies must be able to present financial records and reports in line with accepted international standards.
Mr Chan notes that the economy moves in cycles and that, even in the current boom, accountants must continue to acquire new skills. At present, this means keeping up to date with changes to the regulatory framework and, if necessary, improving levels of proficiency in English and Mandarin, since certain assignments may require travel to the mainland or overseas. "Hong Kong still acts as a major capital market and there is lots of room for growth," he says. "Accountants can benefit from this, provided they are hard-working and responsible."
Mr Chan admits that the workload can be heavy, especially during the first few years in the profession. This prompts some accountants, once qualified, to leave professional firms and move into the commercial sector. Obviously, this increases the need for a steady flow of graduate trainees. The basis for a good career, no matter what path it takes, is to have solid accounting qualifications.
More than ever, professionals in Hong Kong see mainland experience as invaluable.
At the same time, though, mainland-based accountants, often trained overseas, are keen to find work in Hong Kong. "In future, we are likely to see more mainland accounting professionals coming to work here," says Mr Chan.
Having been in the sector for 25 years, Mr Chan has seen the rewards the profession can offer. "It is fulfilling work and there are good opportunities for career progression," he says. "However, you must be willing to keep learning about the different aspects of the business and be looking for job satisfaction, not just monetary rewards."
Horwath Hong Kong is part of Horwath International and is ranked among the world's top ten independent accounting and business consultancy firms. It currently employs about 240 staff locally and plans to increase headcount steadily. Besides being intellectually able, candidates are expected to be outgoing, determined and open-minded.
Oversight and compliance
- Qualified accountatnts needed to oversee finance departments and monitor compliance
- Employers having difficulty in filling more senior positions
- Important to continue to acquire new skills
- Mainland accountants also keen to gain experience in Hong Kong