In the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs’ most recent membership survey, stable incomes, positive job prospects, and mobile roles indicate a profession continuing on an upswing.
In the annual survey of Institute members, conducted over a two-week period, a total of 3,631 members completed the questionnaire resulting in a response rate of approximately 10 percent of total membership.
Survey participant demographics show 57 percent are male, 43 percent female, 73 percent professional accountants in business (including 56 percent in the private sector, 9 percent in government and not- for-profit organizations, and 8 percent in academia and others), and 27 percent professional accountants in practice.
According to the survey, 45 percent of respondents earn more than HK$600,000 per year, an increase from last year’s 39 percent. Also, 15 percent of respondents indicate an annual salary of more than HK$1,200,000, compared to 11 percent last year.
In addition, 78 percent of respondents received a pay rise in 2015 and 23 percent received more than 7 percent. More than 45 percent received a bonus worth more than one month's salary the year before.
”The results show that the earning power of CPAs is relatively stable and strong,” Ivy Cheung, president of the Institute. “This should be no surprise as accountants do not rely on a static skill set and their flexibility and adaptability mean that they can fit into many roles in numerous industries at different levels, including the c-level.”
Job satisfaction factors
Although salary and benefits (29 percent) is a major job satisfaction factor for survey participants, they also cite range of interesting work (15 percent), promotion prospects (14 percent), and organizational culture (13 percent) as important non-financial elements of job satisfaction.
As a practicing accountant for more than two decades, Cheung has seen her share of accountants coming through the ranks in a myriad of industries and sectors in Hong Kong.
Accounting firms are good way for young accountants to learn the ropes of the profession as they provide some of the best training, quality exposure and experience.
Firms often open doors of opportunities for career development as accountants need to serve clients which in the long run teaches them how to be in step with, or even ahead of, clients. The ability to advise clients eventually sets CPAs up to be in leadership and management positions, adds Cheung.
Institute members work in multinational corporations, listed companies, family businesses, small-to-medium sized enterprises, government bodies, and non-profits, says Cheung. They tend to work in a variety of positions in numerous industries and sectors — providing valuable professional services and support to Hong Kong so that it maintains its status as an international financial center and trusted business and commercial hub.
Institute members work in banking, capital markets and financial services (28 percent), retail and wholesale (12 percent), construction, property and real estate (11 percent) and manufacturing and engineering (11 percent). They serve in major industries constituting the economic pillars of Hong Kong.
With almost three out of four of respondents indicating that they manage staff, and 38 percent as president, vice president, partner, CEO, CFO, financial controller or director, it is apparent that Hong Kong’s CPAs are leaders in their respective fields, adds Cheung.
With experience and expertise in numbers, CPAs are the most qualified to present and analyze financial data, and use the information to help understand the questions at stake.
Outlook remains positive
The outlook for job prospects and employment opportunities still remains positive as 34 percent of professional accountants in business and 49 percent of professional accountants in practice plan on hiring in 2016. These figures are down from the previous year's 61 percent and 57 percent respectively, as 53 percent of respondents view the economic environment over the next 18 months as uncertain.
The data indicate that younger members are more likely to change jobs — this is natural given they have less obligations and responsibilities to consider, and they are in demand, according to Raphael Ding, chief executive and registrar of the Institute.
Mobility is a distinguishing characteristic of the profession with 68 percent of respondents spending working hours beyond their home base, a significant increase from last year’s 40 percent. The constant between this year and last year is that the Guangdong Pearl River Delta region is still cited as the most popular work destination.
"Hong Kong CPAs have strong business acumen; they are well-versed in international best practices and know China. That's why they are sought-after not just to work locally," says Ding. He continues, the Institute’s increasingly cooperative relationship with its neighbors just north of the border will continue to serve members well.
Beneficiary of Pearl River Delta dev't
The current and next generation of accountants will be able to reap the benefits of the Pearl River Delta development as there are plans to create more cities in the region, build more infrastructure (including the mega Hong Kong-Macau-Zhu Hai bridge), and cultivate the area into a hub of logistics, finance, and commerce.
With 14 percent of the membership traveling outside of the Asia Pacific region, to North America and Europe for work, a Hong Kong CPA qualification readily receives global recognition. They could easily be working in Russia for a company looking to list in Hong Kong just as they could be working in the New York office of a Chinese company, adds Ding.