Hong Kong Raises Bar for Insolvency Practitioners

The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants is defining what skills and experience it takes for mastery in the insolvency field by offering its first ever specialist qualification and designation.


Professionals active in this field who pass the Diploma in Insolvency will be entitled to use "SQ (Insolvency)" after their names and those who reach the level of the insolvency designation, which is limited to CPAs who have the required years of relevant experience, are entitled to use the title "SD (Insolvency)" after their name.  Holders of the designation are subject to the institute's regulations, which require them to observe, maintain and apply professional standards.  


"These accreditations are symbols of the increasingly sophisticated nature of Hong Kong's commercial and financial landscapes and they will help cultivate insolvency expertise for the city," says Winnie C.W. Cheung, the institute's chief executive.  "We have set a lofty goal of training and accrediting insolvency practitioners in Hong Kong because insolvency is part of the life cycle of business." 


The institute's Diploma in Insolvency is open to CPAs and other professionals in the field.  The one-year, part-time programme, taught by Hong Kong's top insolvency experts, covers the three main areas of insolvency: corporate rescue and restructuring, liquidation, and personal insolvency.


After the diploma programme, participants have an understanding of Hong Kong's insolvency procedures, cross-border and transnational issues, and mainland-related matters.  All successful participants are eligible for the specialist qualification but only members of the Institute are eligible for the specialist designation.


For the specialist qualification, the Diploma in Insolvency, there is a two-year pre-entry experience requirement, although those with no experience can gain the qualification by completing certain study requirements.  The designation, however, requires that the insolvency practitioner has achieved a defined level of expertise through work experience and is subject to the institute's regulations.


According to Cheung, a good insolvency practitioner can make the difference between a company being rescued and a company being finished, and in the latter case, being liquidated in an orderly fashion with regard to stakeholders' rights and interests, and in compliance with the law.  The complexities of modern insolvency can be daunting and most Hong Kong companies have dealings with the mainland, where the process of insolvency can be very different, she says, which underscores the importance of specialised training.


The programme is taught by insolvency experts such as: Lee Aitken, a barrister and University of Hong Kong associate professor who has taught corporate insolvency; Stephen Briscoe, an insolvency practitioner at Briscoe & Wong who has more than three decades of experience; Charles D. Booth, a former University of Hong Kong professor who has taught and written about insolvency law for more than two decades; and Patrick Cowley, a KPMG insolvency practitioner responsible for the liquidation of Lehman in Hong Kong.


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