The best of times for accountants
Despite the gloomy economic climate, this is a very good time for accountants to sharpen the professional skills that can make their career more promising.
"Accountants are not just to help businesses when they are doing very well, and in times of growth. And I think the skill set of accountants really comes to the fore when businesses are facing challenging times - managing the cash strength, the balance sheet, identifying efficiency [of the organisation]," said Dean Westcott, global president of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), during a recent Hong Kong visit.
"Organisations, whether in the private or in the public sector, will benefit immensely from having a strong finance support function, and then embedding that financial awareness throughout the organisation," he added.
"Increasingly, the role of the accountant is to advise the organisation on strategies, and [on] how to operationalise those strategies, how to identify and manage the risks, and how to put in place good systems of corporate governance that can ensure that the organisation is more productive," he said, adding that apart from bringing a whole raft of skills to the organisation, an accountant should also know when to bring in other expert advisers if needed.
According to Westcott, globalisation is reshaping capital markets, and thus offers big opportunities for accountants. "We firmly believe accountancy is the language of business, and the profession [that] binds global markets together," he said.
"The rising trend of Chinese trade is a huge opportunity for accountants working in this part of the world, as you've got convergence going on with global accounting, reporting, and auditing standards. All accountants are working in the same framework. With increasing globalisation, you've got a great tie-up between economies," Westcott said, adding that it was hard to point out which industry presented the best opportunities for accountants.
"In the global environment, you have some factors that affect everybody in the same way, such as rising expectations, pressures on costs, increasing oil prices, inflation, issues in the euro zone and so on.
"And there are different issues everywhere as well. But I think that wherever those issues are, accountants have a very important role to play in ensuring that we keep businesses sustainable.
"Obviously, there are some growing sectors in different markets, but I think accountants have opportunities for a role to play in all of those," said Westcott, who is CFO with a healthcare firm.