Career Advice Job Market Trend Report

Counting on finance

As one of Hong Kong's pillar sectors, the financial services industry has a well-established history of attracting ambitious people who are looking for diverse career opportunities.

For career-building employees and prospective recruits to the financial services sector, professional bodies offer a wide range of qualifications and continuous-development programmes suited to all levels of experience.

Neil Stevenson, executive director for brand at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), says that no matter the size or scope of an organisation, they all need professionals that understand accounting and finance and can play a fundamental role in running the business.

"These days, businesses are concerned about long-term success and need trained accounting professionals who focus on professional values, ethics and compliance, alongside strategy and performance management," says Stevenson, adding that these form an integral part of the ACCA syllabus.

To demonstrate to an employer that an individual has the critical skills required to perform in the workplace, the ACCA defines an accounting professional as someone who has passed all its exams, completed a professional-ethics module, and has three years' relevant working experience.

As young accounting professionals gain experience, Stevenson says, they usually choose to specialise in a particular area. But it is vital for those at the start of their career to build competences across the entire spectrum of business operations.

"Young accounting professionals need to have the complete skill set so they can understand how the finance function relates to the different linkages and interactions within a business," says Stevenson.

To equip accounting professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to operate in all sectors and markets, Stevenson says that depending on existing qualifications and experience, the ACCA offers a choice of qualification entry points.

Bernard Poon, divisional president - Greater China, CPA Australia, also believes today's accountants need the technical and leadership expertise to be the business leaders of tomorrow. He says that with its focus on strategic business, the CPA Program provides a flexible learning platform covering accounting knowledge, leadership skills, financial management and corporate governance.

Poon says Hong Kong's ever-closer relationship with the mainland gives its professional services the chance to facilitate investment overseas.

Developing and nurturing core ethical and professional competencies is also a key mission of the Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute. Ashvin Vibhakar, managing director of Asia-Pacific operations at the CFA Institute, says regulators and employers worldwide recognise the value of the CFA designation.

"In Hong Kong, the Securities and Futures Commission approved the CFA exam Level I as a recognised industry qualification for investment representatives and commodities trading adviser's representatives," he says.

In addition, the CFA charter is a recognised industry qualification for investment advisers and commodities trading advisers.