Professional body maintaining standards for fast growing sector

by Wing Kei

Paul Chan, president, Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants
Photo: Johnson Poon

Professional body maintaining standards for fast growing sector

Accountants who understand basic economic theory will certainly know that, in their own profession, demand is currently running well ahead of supply. The rapid pace of development on the mainland is behind this and means that, if anything, the need for professional accountants is more than likely to increase in the next few years.

"As a major international financial centre, Hong Kong acts as a platform for investors in mainland China and for companies there which want to list in Hong Kong," says Paul Chan, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. "The Chinese government encourages the development of the service sector and is boosting further demand for auditing and accounting services."

Mr Chan says that overseas companies interested in investing in China often prefer to get accounting advice and services in Hong Kong. "Professionals here are familiar with the Chinese market, and they have international exposure and a broad understanding of international standards and practices," he explains.

In view of the increased competition for talent, finding sufficient new recruits is by no means easy. Candidates must not only be academically strong, but also possess a high level of integrity, good language skills, cultural awareness, and a willingness to travel to China. Nowadays, more than 60 per cent of Hong Kong-based accountants spend a proportion of their time working in the mainland, and this is seen as an essential part of their jobs.

We look for people with a broad vision, clear goals and international exposure

The institute is Hong Kong's only statutory regulatory body for the accounting profession and has wide-ranging responsibilities. It maintains high standards for those entering the profession through its postgraduate qualification programme (QP), and promulgates financial reporting, auditing and assurance, and ethical standards.

In total, Hong Kong now has more than 25,000 CPAs. Around 60 per cent are in the commercial sector, 30 per cent work in practice, while the remainder are with the government or in the public sector.

"Whether one works in practice or in the business sector depends very much on personal choice and interests," says Mr Chan. "But accounting involves technical skills and these must be regularly updated, if you want to move ahead. It's a rewarding industry and, if you work in an accounting firm, you have the chance of becoming a partner when you have around 10 years of experience."

Mr Chan also notes that more private companies are looking to recruit CPAs with five to six years of work experience. Employers favour people who are motivated and demonstrate they can manage things independently.

It normally takes about two years to finish the institute's QP training which includes both theoretical and practical elements. Students must take four modules which cover financial reporting, auditing, information management and taxation. They also attend workshops to build their skills in communications, presentation, management and leadership. Case analyses used in the workshops allow participants the chance to put newly learned skills into practice. The final part of the QP training is an open-book examination. It is also required to have three years' on-the-job experience with the institute's authorised employers or supervisors in order to become a Hong Kong CPA, a qualification respected and recognised around the world.


Taken from Career Times 18 August 2006
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