Hong Kong accountants continue to enjoy favorable remuneration and high levels of mobility within their careers, while those with diverse skill sets and experience are in high demand, proving the outlook of the accountancy profession is positive, according to the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs' most recent 4th membership survey.
The survey results reaffirm the broad opportunities for CPAs as the accounting qualification opens many doors for career development.
Institute members work in a variety of different sectors from public practice to multinational corporations, family businesses and small- to-medium sized enterprises to government bodies and non-profit organizations.
"The skill sets of an accountant are valuable across a diverse spectrum of business, as seen by the sectors in which our members currently serve, in supporting Hong Kong's economic growth and maintaining its status as an international financial centre," notes Mabel Chan, the Institute's President.
Attractiveness of the profession
Salary remuneration continues to increase with 49 percent of respondents earning more than HK$600,000 per year, compared to the 45 percent recorded in the last survey.
Statistics also show that 12 percent earned over $1.2 million a year and the top 3 percent earned more than $2.4 million per year. Additionally, 84 percent of respondents received a pay rise and 79 percent received a bonus. In the private sector 59 percent received a bonus greater than one month's salary.
This high paying salary coupled with company's added benefits remain the top factors for motivating staff, followed by job satisfaction and the prospect of a promotion. Salaries and benefits also remain the top influencer for attracting new employees across all sectors.
"I have full confidence in the future of the accounting profession. Salaries may attract many young people, but I believe it is the training which is the most valuable, as it provides a solid foundation for young people to work in every other areas of business," says Chan, an accountant for over two decades.
Indeed, the Institute recorded high numbers of members (more than 41,000) and students (more than 18,000) as more people continue to join the profession.
Large accounting firms are always among the most attractive employers for new members starting their careers. According to the Institute's latest statistics, 48 percent of Qualification Programme graduates work in Big Four accounting firms.
Outlook and career development
This year, 59 percent felt positive or neutral about the economic outlook for the next 18 months, which is higher as compared to 44 percent in the last survey.
As for their career plan, 58 percent of respondents do not plan to change jobs, while 32 percent plan to change jobs. In addition, employers in all sectors face difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.
"It is common for members, after having acquired a few years of experience in public practice, to switch to private and non-profit sectors. The well-recognized CPA qualification offers them the advantage of high mobility," says Raphael Ding, the Institute's Chief Executive. "The statistics also imply that accountants, especially those with the right skills and experience, are highly sought after by employers."
Within their work, respondents report a variety of different necessary skills. The most important skill sets for their current jobs are analytical (22 percent), problem solving (18 percent), followed by technical and communication (12 percent each). Overall, 81 percent say there is a need to continue to develop themselves by acquiring additional skills to meet the markets needs.
For those who move from public practice to private and non-profit sectors, they would like to strengthen their skills including sector knowledge, problem solving, flexibility / ability to adapt to change, creative thinking, and negotiation.
"The Institute strives to help members further develop their careers with services such as the Financial Controllership Programme and the Mentorship Programme. They are looking for professional and technical training and this coincides with the Institute's effort to expand the scope of services offered, including soft skills and non-traditional training," says Ding.
The survey acknowledges the problem of long working hours in the profession as 53 percent of respondents worked 50 hours or more in an average week. During the busiest week, 80 percent of the respondents reported working 50 hours or more.
Respondents suggest a number of ways to deal with long working hours including employing more staff, streamlining work processes, and overtime compensation, among others.
"Different sectors have different circumstances and job cycle contributing to long working hours. As reflected in the diversity of solutions suggested by respondents, the issue of long working hours is a complex issue that requires involved parties to work together to address the issue." says Ding. "The Institute endeavors to play a more active role to bring together employers, employees and other stakeholders to address the issue in a considered and robust manner."
Meanwhile, the Institute observes that accounting firms and businesses are harnessing technology such as artificial intelligence to help cope with work and deal with long working hours.
"Keenly aware of the need to consider advanced technology for conducting audits and businesses, the Institute is proactively playing a part by reforming its Qualification Programme and introducing more relevant CPD programmes, to help equip our students and members to meet the changing market needs," says Ding.