The role of the accountant is changing. As global conditions remain uncertain, accountants have plenty of opportunities to emerge as leaders within their corporations. 'Accountants can be the advocates of sound business practices. If they rise to the challenge, they will be able to deliver value for high-performance organisations,' says Rosanna Choi Yi-tak, chairman of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Hong Kong. According to Choi, the global financial crisis has highlighted an urgent need for good corporate governance, adherence to regulations and stringent risk management. If these had all been rigorously implemented in the first place, the financial crisis may have been avoided. 'Organisations now need strong leadership and financial discipline. And accountants are being called to take up these leadership roles,' she says. 'They are stepping into leadership positions in large multinationals, acting as advisers in government and sitting on the boards of listed companies. Some have even become successful entrepreneurs.' Traditionally looked upon as little more than bookkeepers and auditors, professional accountants have become highly valued. 'Now that we are talking about recovery and survival, good business practices are very important. Companies need people who know what to look out for,' Choi says. 'This has been especially true in the case of the mainland, where the financial crisis has pressured companies to change and reform. This requires the expertise of accountants.' The demand for accountants with international exposure is very high on the mainland. While surveys estimate that there are 140,000 accountants there, the demand is for about 350,000. With confidence growing in the mainland's economic growth prospects, the number of initial public offerings (IPOs) have risen in Hong Kong. The first six months of this year saw 31 IPOs raise a total of HK$50 billion, compared with 18 IPOs raising HK$17.6 billion in the first half of last year. In line with this surge, accounting professionals within the corporate finance sector are in high demand. This is expected to also hold true next year if mainland companies strengthen their corporate governance and seek to raise funds. Also in demand are accountants skilled in risk advisory, forensic accounting and restructuring. 'In emerging markets, you need to know who you are dealing with and whether the numbers are true or false; hence the requirement for forensic accounting. 'Restructuring is important because people tend to think more about how to work more efficiently and effectively,' Choi says. In the longer term, she believes that expertise in sustainable reporting, green accounting and corporate responsibility will be highly sought after.