Focus remains on quality, not quantity
Surging demand for accountants on the mainland, coupled with changes brought about by a rapid internationalisation of the capital market in Hong Kong, pose challenges for the city's accounting profession.
To keep pace with its robust economic growth, demand from companies on the mainland continues to increase for professional accountants, who have been trained and are working in Hong Kong. As the statutory licensing body of certified public accountants in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants faces a challenge to address the soaring demand for highly qualified human resources, says Chris Joy, the executive director of the institute and chairman of its 2011 annual conference.
The institute trains CPAs of international standard through its Qualification Programme.
'The mainland needs quantity; our focus is on quality. While Hong Kong cannot physically provide that many accountants, we can help to provide the quality professionals needed by the booming economy in China,' Joy says. 'Keeping up the quality is our challenge. We do not want the demand for quantity to dilute the quality of our profession.'
The other challenge is to help local CPAs keep up with the continual internationalisation of the local marketplace. Hong Kong has become an international capital market and demands more professional accountants who can work in this international environment.
'The profession needs to recognise and anticipate many more international influences and demands,' Joy says. 'There are also other changes, for instance, in the regulatory environment.'
When demands and regulations change, CPAs need to look at their own skills and competencies to see if they match the needs.
'As the capital market is becoming more sophisticated and the demand for certain niche services is growing, our members will have more opportunity to cultivate different skills. The institute offers a lot of professional development capacity for its members, both in terms of the range of choice and the number of training hours,' Joy adds.
'Although there is a basic requirement for our members to demonstrate that they have kept up-to-date with key professional competencies to maintain their membership, our offerings in terms of professional development and technical support and services are being widened. This helps our members to broaden their skill base. For instance, we have introduced specialist interest groups over the years, including insolvency specialist designation, a restructuring and insolvency faculty, and a tax interest group.'
Similar to many other businesses, talent retention in the accounting profession requires constant attention.
'In our profession, human capital is the key element. Because the internationalisation of the capital market has driven up the demand for skilled accountants, the marketplace has become highly pressured.
'To retain talent, many accounting firms are working to enhance their employees' work-life balance, career paths and succession planning.'
The institute provides its members with opportunities for leisure and networking activities by organising recreational and sports groups, Joy says. 'As a member-based organisation, it is vital for us to help our members get relaxation and enjoy quality time together. One of our recent initiatives is a forum for the younger members. It helps them facilitate the development of interests and leadership potential.'