Hong Kong’s accounting guild enters the technology era with the use of new digital training tools
About 40 per cent of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants members are below 40 years old who operate mainly with computers and smartphones.
The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) plans to invest in a digital training platform to cater to a new generation of tech savvy accountants, according to its newly-elected president Eric Tong.
An online platform will allow the organisation’s 43,000 accounting members easier access to the latest training materials from their computers and smartphones as the financial services industry accelerates efforts to embrace technology to stay relevant and efficient. The institute (HKICPA) has previously organised traditional training courses in the classroom format.
Tong said about 40 per cent of the members were people under 40 who work and operate primarily on computers and smartphones.
“A new accounting plus era has just begun”, in which accountants now had to provide services beyond basic auditing and tax advisory that encompasses consulting on digitalisation and technological disruption to align with market changes, he said.
“Many customers now want their accountants to help them adopt technological changes, to use big data, robotic automation and other new technologies to cut down operating cost and enhance productivity. These are the new skill sets the accountants would need,” Tong said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.
He said the institute’s e-training platform would be launched in Hong Kong over the next few years, following in the footsteps of its peers in the UK and other western markets.
The HKICPA has been the regulator and industry body for all accountants in Hong Kong since its establishment in 1973, but it is losing power to the government-appointed Financial Reporting Council. The Hong Kong government last week pushed through a law change which, if successful, will see the council’s powers expanded to take over the institute’s authority to inspect, investigate and discipline auditors in more than 2,000 listed companies.
The change is aimed at matching international practices to add independent oversight on auditors of listed companies.
Tong said the HKICPA had reservations over the reforms, and would seek a waiver from its obligation to pay 25 per cent of the council’s annual HK$90 million (US$11.51 million) under the government’s proposal. The rest of the budget is to be paid by investors’ levy, the stock exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission.
“If the reforms wanted to add independent oversight over accountants, then the HKICPA should not be paying for it, or we should pay less, such as 20 per cent of all its operating cost,” he said.
The HKICPA also considers the proposed HK$10 million fine to discipline small firms to be too harsh, which may lead to their complete collapse.
“We would like to see the maximum fine reduced, or it should at least have a guideline on the penalty,” Tong added.