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Qualifying for career success

Published on Friday, 05 Oct 2012
Jonathan Ng
Deputy Executive Director, HKICPA
Alison Wilde
Director of Professional Development, HKICPA

Qualification can offer career lift-off
Jonathan Ng
Deputy Executive Director, HKICPA

In an industry sector where expectations of professionalism are extremely high, the Qualification Programme (QP) offered by the HKICPA is acknowledged as one of the most efficient ways to kick-start a promising career as a professional accountant.

"Our home-grown QP is designed with tailor-made elements to train Hong Kong students to become professional accountants," says Jonathan Ng, HKICPA deputy executive director. "The QP builds on the broad-based education and basic accounting knowledge obtained from a local university."

As the only statutory licensing body for professional accountants in Hong Kong, the HKICPA is responsible for issuing practising certificates to CPAs. Ng says the HKICPA supports and works with Hong Kong tertiary institutions to make sure an accounting degree prepares students for the QP. "We ensure our QP learning and training is current, relevant and endorsed by our stakeholders, who include employers, academia, HKICPA members and students," he says.

To attain CPA status, candidates must complete four modules of advanced study, each 15 weeks long, in financial reporting, corporate financing, business assurance and taxation. They are also required to pass an open-book exam for each module and a final exam that lasts six hours, divided into two sessions. To help QP students prepare for the module exams and the final exam, the HKICPA offers examination-assistance functions for each exam session.

Apart from accounting graduates, the QP is also open to non-accounting graduates who are required to take a conversion programme. QP graduates are also required to complete three years of practical experience before they can become fully fledged CPAs.

Keeping pace with demand for access to online information, QP modules are offered in the form of an e-book. Webcasts and a discussion forum have also been installed on the HKICPA website for mobile learning. "Online access to the programme makes it easier for members who need to travel," Ng says.

As part of an enrichment initiative, QP workshops that simulate issues CPAs face at work also feature soft-skill communication, negotiation and management training. "We are always listening and looking to do more for our students," Ng says. Workshops are led by practising CPAs, many of whom hold senior positions in the profession.

As business integration between Hong Kong and the mainland continues to grow, Ng says successful completion of the QP qualifies individuals interested in working on the mainland for exemption from four modules of the mainland's suite of seven CPA exams. "Our QP provides a recognised and efficient way to gain mainland CPA designation," Ng says.

To maintain standards and smooth delivery of the QP, Ng says the HKICPA authorised employer/supervisor scheme gives employers a set of guidelines on how to train their staff and CPA students with a structured training environment to support their learning and development.

Based on a reciprocal membership agreement, the HKICPA has signed recognition agreements with major chartered accountants bodies in England and Wales, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada and, most recently, the International Qualifications Appraisal Board in the US.

"As business becomes more globalised and CPAs more mobile, these agreements provide Hong Kong CPAs with an international passport to work almost anywhere in the world," Ng says. "Because our QP is globally benchmarked, it gives employers confidence, which can also help advance a career."

Moulding all-round industry performers
Alison Wilde

Director of Professional Development, HKICPA

As the role of accountants continues to expand, specialist training programmes offered by the HKICPA are designed to help members to build expertise on their existing qualifications and training.

"Our specialisation programmes generate a lot of interest from our members and are increasingly recognised by employers for the value they add to their staff and the organisation," says Alison Wilde, director of professional development at the HKICPA.

A good example, says Wilde, is the HKICPA's Diploma in Insolvency programme. Introduced in 2010, the diploma course gives participants an in-depth knowledge of the different aspects of restructuring and insolvency administration.

Wilde says that the programme, which is taught by leading insolvency experts, puts an emphasis on Hong Kong's insolvency processes including personal insolvency and restructuring procedures.

"In response to market demand, professionals with specialisation training will be able to offer more focused advisory services," Wilde says.

"In addition to providing the technical expertise, post-CPA programmes also equip members with the management skills that can help a business move forward."

The insolvency programme also incorporates cross-border transnational issues. Delivered over nine months, it is aimed at those who are working in, or intend to pursue, a career in insolvency practice.

The part-time specialisation programme requires eligible members to pass exams after completing 58 hours of classroom studies.

In today's increasingly multifaceted global marketplace, Wilde sees specialisation programmes as a way of providing HKICPA members with knowledge and skills that complement their existing CPA designation.

"Specialisations can help develop the skills and knowledge needed to remain at the forefront of a rapidly changing business environment, which is also becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated," Wilde says.

She adds that demand for specialisation programmes and other industry-related courses also reflects the way HKICPA members work in a diverse environment across industries and services.

For instance, the HKICPA has also introduced an Advanced Diploma in Specialist Taxation programme, designed to be an integrated practical study of different aspects of taxation.

Wilde says interpersonal and negotiating skills, and an ability to communicate and listen well, are also important for developing well-rounded CPA professionals.

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