Bean counters are finally cashing in
Before the turn of the century, most accountants qualified through overseas training courses. Few had qualified through the just-launched local programme.
Almost all local bean counters received their qualifications as certified public accountants on courses in Britain, Australia and the US. Even when the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants introduced the local programme in 1999, there were only 100 graduates that year.
Many would still opt to go overseas to obtain their qualification as it would be easier for them to gain work in other countries.
But the latest figures show the tide has turned. Last week, 2,141 aspiring accountants graduated from the qualification programme.
These graduates, if they obtain the three years of relevant working experience, will become certified public accountants. Twelve years on, 5,600 bean counters in Hong Kong have gained their accountancy qualification locally.
This may represent only 16 per cent of all 35,000 CPAs in the city, but in terms of total numbers of new CPAs produced every year, the Hong Kong programme now accounts for 80 per cent of new graduates.
Philip Tsai, the president of HKICPA, said the local programme had become more popular because the city had signed agreements with other professional bodies such as those in Australia, Britain and Canada. An agreement with the US was signed last month. This means Hong Kong qualified CPAs can join accountancy bodies overseas.
Opportunities on the mainland are another factor. As a benefit of the closer economic partnership arrangement, HKICPA qualification programmes mean graduates can waive four papers out of seven when they sit the mainland's programme.
Bean counter friends said this makes it easier for them to get qualified on the mainland. And it may explain why there are an increasing number of students, including from overseas, enrolled in the local qualification programme.
Tsai said many students who would have studied in Britain and Australia and joined the CPA in those countries are now joining the local programme as they eye work opportunities on the mainland.
And what about a say in who becomes president?
More on the HKICPA. Recently some members have called for 'one person, one vote' to elect their president and vice-presidents.
At present, the 35,000 members can each cast a vote to elect some of the members on the 23-member board. But they have no direct vote for the president and the two vice-presidents, who are elected by the board members.
The call for reform comes from a group of about 160 accountants who want more say from members. But Tsai said this change would not be easily made as it would need the Legislative Council's approval.
Watch this space.