Accountants open door to profession for new blood

money-glitz | Dominique Nguy 16 Jan 2017

The pathway to becoming an accountant in Hong Kong is getting wider with the release early this month of a position paper on the qualification program.

The paper, issued by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, provides for a new program, comprising three progressive levels with 14 modules and an integrated final examination.

It offers alternative pathways and greater flexibility for students from different educational backgrounds, including subdegree holders and non- accounting majors.

The three levels are associate, professional and capstone. Non- accounting-related bachelor degree or subdegree holders will first have to complete 10 modules at the associate level.

They can then advance to the professional level, where they will be required to complete four additional modules and workshops.

After completing the professional level, they can advance to the capstone level where they will have to complete a three-day workshop and final examination.

Under the current program, accounting majors who hold bachelor degrees will have to complete four modules, workshops and a final examination to become professional accountants.

"Under the new qualification program, accounting degree holders will not be required to go through the associate level and will start right at the professional level," said Jonathan Ng, HKICPA's executive director for qualification and education.

"Non-accounting-related bachelor degree holders or subdegree holders are required to take conversion courses held at different educational institutions before they become eligible to participate in the current QP," he said.

"However, under the new qualification program, they will also have the option of studying for the 10 modules at the associate level on their own in addition to taking the conversion courses," Ng added.

The new program aims to attract more students from other disciplines to join the profession in a move deemed important to develop a sustainable talent pool of accounting professionals.

Practical experience with authorized institutions and supervisors will still be required under the new program.

"Despite the change in entry level, the exit level under the new qualification program remains at the highest standard to ensure graduates have the required professional knowledge and ethical quality," said president Mabel Chan Mei-bo.

"A wider discipline also addresses the fact that nowadays, accountants are performing even more versatile roles, exceeding traditional functions to become experts in areas, such as data analytics and performance management, to help business growth," said Chan.

The new program's associate level will be launched in June 2019, the professional level in December 2019 and the capstone level in June 2020.

The new program raises the emphasis on developing and assessing higher- order enabling skills, such as problem solving, critical and lateral thinking, to enhance students' ability to identify complex problems, including aspects of ethical dilemmas, and to develop professional solutions.

"This aims to train professional accountants with the necessary skills to deal competently with professional type situations, thereby improving their employability in the market," said HKICPA chief executive Raphael Ding Wai-chuen.

The institute conducted eight information sessions and a survey to gather inputs from stakeholders about the new program.

"In response to the consultation papers, the institute received 11 written responses and more than 160 online responses. In general, there was strong support for the new program and its proposed changes to the CPA qualifying process," said Ding.

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