Improving skill set vital in fast-evolving economies
Professional accounting bodies in Hong Kong are stepping up development offerings to ensure accountants are better equipped to work in fast-evolving economies, such as the mainland.
'We have a growing number of members based in China,' says Keith Pogson, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA). 'Focusing on the mainland has become an essential part of our operations.'
While accountants in Hong Kong are well-placed to work on the mainland due to their understanding of international financial reporting standards and exposure to Hong Kong, their skill set often needs to be topped up with further technical knowledge specific to the mainland.
The HKICPA runs programmes on accounting, auditing, tax and capital markets, to help members stay abreast of the latest developments on the mainland.
Meanwhile, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) works with learning providers on the mainland to identify the most pertinent training areas for its members. These include providing timely updates on tax and international financial reporting standards; risk management; understanding changes in the global economy, and how these impact on business; carbon accounting; and environmental sustainability reporting.
The HKICPA's mainland business interest group provides a forum and network in which members doing business there can share experiences and network.
The institute also runs a China desk in Shenzhen which provides free support services on issues from accounting and tax, customs and investment opportunities, to economics and trading.
The efforts of these organisations are not confined to established accountants. The HKICPA and ACCA have also been working at using their qualification programmes to shape young domestic talent, and raise the standard of accountancy to an international level.
To date, the HKICPA has accredited 10 universities on the mainland, enabling graduates to gain direct entry into the institute's qualification programme. The programme saw mainland student enrolment surge 68 per cent in 2011/2012 over the same period a year earlier to 892 students. This year, the HKICPA aims to recruit 680 new mainland students for its qualification scheme.
'Mainlanders have shown growing interest in our qualification,' Pogson says. 'Many see it as a way of keeping their options open. This is because the HKICPA qualification teaches many international concepts, and is automatically recognised by other countries including Britain, the United States, Australia, Canada and South Africa.'
The ACCA has been prolific in grooming young talent, working with more than 60 universities on the mainland to incorporate the ACCA syllabus into the finance and accounting curriculum of these institutions, and holding an annual job-hunting competition for mainland accounting and finance students to gain summer internships.
'This has been a very popular programme among employers because it allows them to build their brand while also helping with recruitment,' says Ada Leung, head of ACCA China.