Soft skills count in a booming sector
An Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) survey revealed that although profit margins are tightening, accountants in Hong Kong and the mainland see opportunities for themselves and their clients. They are also increasingly focusing on capturing niche markets and adapting to changes in demand as the global economy recovers.
Respondent members on the mainland, Hong Kong and Singapore also reported a net increase in employment and investment among their clients. Compared with Europe and the United States, ACCA members in the Asia-Pacific region also expect to see a continuation of robust government spending.
Rosanna Choi, ACCA Hong Kong chairman, says that while the association's local members are concerned about the challenges posed by the global economic recovery, they are also excited by the economic opportunities that are being created.
"We are seeing a lot of mainland companies involved in cross-border mergers and acquisitions involving different business sectors. This is good news for Hong Kong accountants with multinational experience and the communication skills to talk to clients and other professionals involved in cross-border transactions," Choi says.
The booming market for initial public offerings in Hong Kong is another bright area. And the growth of intra-Asia trade and renminbi transactions will surely benefit the Hong Kong accountancy sector, she adds.
As the accounting industry becomes even more complex, Choi says there is a tendency for accountants to specialise. However, she cautions that accountants who focus on one particular industry sector could suffer during a market contraction or change in economic direction.
Choi says young accountants joining the industry should learn a wide range of accounting and auditing skills before they specialise. They must also develop soft skills such as communication, cross-cultural understanding and the ability to work in a team.
"Hong Kong accountancy firms have many years of experience working on international transactions," Choi says. "They also have the important language skills necessary to interact with people from different regions and countries."
Larger firms are recruiting talented graduates from non-financial backgrounds through an accountancy conversion programme, she says.
"These days, clients are looking for more than accounting and due diligence services. They expect their accountants to add value through knowledge and expertise," Choi adds. "The more depth and expertise within an accountancy firm, the better positioned they are to provide their clients with the services they are looking for."