Winning the numbers game

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 December, 2010, 12:00am

Becoming a certified practising accountant (CPA) is a real plus for your career, according to Low Weng Keong, president and chairman of professional accounting body CPA Australia.

'We strongly believe that the accountancy training we offer instils an analytical discipline that is a stepping stone to bigger things. Accounting is just one aspect of the total business and we see the bigger picture. Our graduates often don't just want to be accountants, they want to be a CEO - a CEO with analytical skills grounded in accounting,' he says.

According to Low, CPA Australia members bring to bear a good grounding in analytical and technical skills, the benefit of a broad-based training programme that is more than just technical, and the support of a great body.

'The benefit we bring to those looking for a qualification is that we are a recognised and very accepted designation or qualification among many employers and organisations. Having our designation allows someone looking for a job to have that bit of advantage in that they have credible expertise,' he says.

Under the organisation's three-year strategic plan, Low has been working with CEO Alex Malley and the management team to make sure that the CPA programme is accessible to a broader group of people than the traditional source of accounting graduates - people who started their careers as chemists, engineers and bankers, for example.

'The previous career pathways never allowed these people to benefit from a more formalised structure of accountancy training that would help them in their jobs. But now we are opening the doors to let them in,' Low says.

It's a strategy that has succeeded well at a time of increasing competition for members. 'Size does matter in the sense that the larger we are, the more impact we have in terms of attempting to have a say on issues related to and impacting the profession. If you have the size, you wield the biggest stick. If you are a large professional body, as we are, it implies that your opinions will be more representative of the profession and you are better able to represent the profession on issues,' Low says.

CPA Australia has more than 129,000 members in 114 countries and 17 staffed offices around the globe. The Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong and the mainland are CPA Australia's largest community of accounting and finance professionals.

'We are at the centre of the world right now. There is a tremendous amount of money being poured into Asia and it is recognised throughout the world that Asia is going to be the world's growth engine. With all this focus on Asia, particularly on China, there will be far more business opportunities and more demand for qualified professional accountants,' Low says.

'Asia is an important market and we want to ensure that our members here get the support they need and that we can get more people to join us because this allows us to inculcate skills, quality, discipline and so forth.'

The CPA Australia qualification is recognised in most Asian countries, Britain and the United States through agreements with local bodies.

'We are in the places that young people want to go to and we are there in our own right, so we understand their needs on the ground. And we are there to help. If you are a young person arriving in London, what do you do? Where do you live? As a CPA Australia member, you can go to our local office and we will help. It doesn't get easier than that,' Low says.

He says competition for jobs is only going to increase, so those with better skills and the ability to work overseas are more likely to be taken on by potential employers.

'The relationships we have with large employers in Asia also help because they are often willing to take on people looking for experience overseas,' Low says. 'Our aim is to try to provide our members with opportunities to work not just in different commercial organisations, but also in totally different cultural environments.'