KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIA requires the necessary talents to develop into a high-income economy. The government has set a target to increase the number of accountants to 60,000 by 2020.
An accountant’s knowledge is invaluable when assessing an organisation’s financial health and performance. Whether it’s a small firm or a multinational corporation, qualified accountants are depended upon in steering the business towards success.
Opportunities abound for accountants, not only within the country but also in the region and around the globe.
Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) chief executive officer Dr Nurmazilah Mahzan said with the establishment of the Asean Economic Community and the signing of the Asean Mutual Recognition Arrangement Framework for professional accountancy services, the playing field for those in the profession will be bigger.
“This means aspiring accountants with the right skills and attitude will be in demand with the opening up of Asean. Indeed, there is an opportunity for Malaysia to position itself as a hub for the development of Asean accountancy, based on our talent pool and our adoption of international standards,” she said.
At present, there are 32,000 accountants registered with MIA, with 28,000 more members to be recruited.
Nurmazilah said that while MIA is committed to make sure that the target is achieved, it is not an easy task.
“Apart from the numbers game, MIA aims to address a talent gap by nurturing more professional accountants with the right attitude and competency to fulfil the country’s needs. The gap also relates to diversity — there are a limited number of Bumiputera professional accountants. Therefore, we are working closely with the relevant agencies, educational institutions and associations to achieve the target,” she added.
The ability of aspiring accountants to keep up with worldwide trends in the profession also needs to be addressed. As economies develop and markets become more sophisticated, accountants need to adapt to these changes.
“Accountants of tomorrow will need to do more and are expected to deal with new products, standards and situations.”
TRENDS AND STANDARDS
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are some of the much talked about worldwide trends in accounting.
In respect of the accountancy profession, Nurmazilah said these technologies have the capability to crunch massive amount of data, analyse information and have the ability to enhance reasoning and professional judgement. “By tapping into these technologies, accountants and financial professionals will be better supported when making complex decisions,” she said.
In Malaysia, trends in the accountancy profession are Big Data Analytics and Integrated Reporting.
“Irrespective of the industry, we generate tonnes of data every day. Accountants and financial professionals can leverage on Big Data. They have the ability to analyse data to help management make informed decisions. Accountants and financial professionals could play a strategic role in the organisation as their ability to interpret data could reveal business opportunities.”
Integrated Reporting is the next evolution of corporate reporting. Companies are encouraged to focus beyond financial performance, with an emphasis on the impact of their activities on the economy, environment and society. In doing so, organisations can create greater value over the short-, medium- and long-term.
South Africa, for example, has adopted Integrated Reporting. In Malaysia, the Integrated Reporting initiative is jointly promoted by various parties including the MIA, Securities Commission, Bursa Malaysia and PriceWaterhouse Coopers. “The awareness of Integrated Reporting among public listed companies is gradually increasing.”
Aspiring accountants also need to keep pace with standards, particularly the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs), a single set of accounting standards developed and maintained by the International Accounting Standards Board.
Malaysian Accounting Standards Board technical director Tan Bee Leng said with nearly 120 countries requiring the use of IFRSs by public companies while most other jurisdictions permit the use of IFRSs in at least some circumstances, knowledge of the standards will be most useful to aspiring accountants.
“It will enable them to stay relevant not only in Malaysia but also across international borders. For example, a Malaysian firm may do business with multinational clients or it may have subsidiaries overseas.
“In addition, IFRSs are developed based on clearly articulated principles and IFRSs concepts can help students develop critical analytical and thinking skills,” she added.
With a global economy that is changing at a speed and with an intensity that seem unprecedented, the accounting profession will undoubtedly be greatly impacted by more regulations, digital technologies, stronger demand for governance and greater harmonisation of standards.
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Malaysia head David Chin said: “It is a world in which professional accountants must have the knowledge, skills and abilities to help organisations sustain growth and compete nationally and internationally. In short, professional accountants must not only learn the language of business but also be proficient in it.”
With this metamorphosis comes a requirement for a new set of skills; therefore, the call for accountants to continually up-skill themselves. Chin added that failure to do so will call their value and contribution to the bigger picture into question.
With input and insight from more than 2,000 business and finance professionals around the world, ACCA has identified a set of seven Professional Quotients that accountants must have to address future demands on their capabilities. These are technical skills and ethics, intelligence, creativity, digital quotient, emotional intelligence, vision and experience.
“It is our estimation that, by 2020, all professional accountants will need to develop and balance the necessary Professional Quotients to fit their role and stage of career. What is considered the ‘optimal’ mix will vary across specialist domains, roles, organisations, industries and geographies, and it will evolve in response to change,” added Chin.
ACCA has over 50,000 students and members in Malaysia. “And we’re optimistic of growing our community further because accountancy is a well-regarded profession in the country.”
Meanwhile, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) head in Malaysia Loh Wei Yuen commented that the cost of taking up a professional accounting qualification should not be seen as a deterrent.
“For ICAEW candidates, for example, prohibitive cost should not be a major concern as the programme is partially or even fully sponsored. We believe that candidates may not be fully aware of the career paths or opportunities that lie ahead for them. This is why ICAEW works very closely with its Authorised Training Employers to recruit talents to their organisation to train as Associate Chartered Accountants ,” she said.
There are over 1,000 ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business and ACA students currently in Malaysia.
“The ACA has been offered in Malaysia for over 10 years. This is, admittedly, a rigorous programme. It takes between three and four years to complete and candidates need a range of skill sets to excel,” said Loh.
“However, we believe there is a huge pool of talented individuals in the country who have the ability to excel.”
Seven Professional Quotients of Modern-day Accountants
Technical skills and ethics (TEQ):
The skills and abilities to perform activities consistently to a defined standard while maintaining the highest standards of integrity, independence and scepticism.
The ability to acquire and use knowledge: thinking, reasoning and solving problems.
The ability to use existing knowledge in a new situation, to make connections, explore potential outcomes, and generate new ideas.
The awareness and application of existing and emerging digital technologies, capabilities, practices and strategies.
Emotional intelligence (EQ):
The ability to identify your own emotions and those of others, harness and apply them to tasks, and regulate and manage them.
The ability to anticipate future trends accurately by extrapolating existing trends and facts, and filling the gaps by thinking innovatively.
The ability and skills to understand customer expectations, meet desired outcomes and create value.