ONLY 20 TO 25 per cent of qualified accountants worldwide are practising accountants - most opt to work in the business world as finance managers, controllers and chief financial officers, according to Choi Sau-yuk, president of the Institute of Accountants in Management, a newly established body that specifically supports accountants in the business sector. The organisation was set up to meet the needs of professionals working on the commercial side. This was because accounting bodies, primarily the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, tended to focus on supporting accountants working in audit, an area that requires strict regulations to ensure compliance, especially against a background of corporate collapses, such as the Enron debacle. 'Auditing requires a lot of time looking back on the past, checking if the figures of a company's accounts have been reported correctly and if they meet the regulations,' Mr Choi said. 'An auditor, in effect, works like a policeman.' Because the job is unusually demanding, auditors tend to be ultra-conservative and extremely detail-oriented, making sure everything complies because they have to protect themselves from being sued. But the skills of the auditor are not relevant when it comes to roles in the commercial sector, such as delivering results and winning business. This type of work requires accountants to look after the whole financial function of a company, make decisions on behalf of the company and study the feasibility of new projects. The new body aims to bridge the gap in support given to accountants working in commercial operations through professional development, networking and participation in community developments relevant to the profession as a whole. The organisation is recruiting members. To be eligible, the applicant should be registered with an internationally recognised accounting body (such as the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, CPA Australia and American International Assurance). Auditors are also welcome to join, although they cannot become leaders in the organisation, which wants to ensure the spotlight stays on accountants in business and the public sector.