“The Chartered Accountant Act,1949”, reading this sentence itself fills the heart with pride, we had our own act even before the constitution was adopted in 1950 and India was declared as a Sovereign Socialist- Secular- Democratic- Republic with a parliamentary system of government. Since then, the profession of CA has come a long way. The torch bearers of ICAI have always made us proud. And I am sure we still have a long way to go.
ICAI has even formally declared it’s own Vision 2030 which reads as follows: “World’s leading accounting body, a regulator and developer of trusted and independent professionals with world class competencies in accounting, assurance, taxation, finance and business advisory services “.
Reading this, a thought came to my mind, which I am sure many would have already thought about, but I wanted to share with our fellow community.
Our act is 65+ years old, but have we changed with time?
December 2015 was a year of elections for council members and regional elections. The central council consists of 40 members, 8 of whom are appointed by the central government and 32 are elected through democratic process. I got many sms’s , mails and even calls on daily basis during election time for votes. It was humbling to see our fellow members and colleagues putting in so much efforts. Many emails & manifestos and sms talked about how the candidate would do things for members in a revolutionary way and work in their favour and take the profession to new heights. But I never saw any manifesto talking about our students. We all have been students at some point of time and we know the pain a student goes through. And I do not blame the members too. We all have a right to think about self and family first. Having invested so many years burning mid night oil and slugging through hardships, it is absolutely human to make good all the lost opportunities of earning and start a new life, away from all the hassles of examinations and studies. Even I am not any different from this mind set. When I was a student myself, I always used to think once I clear, I will surely do something for students but then after clearing , like most of us, the will power and motivation gets diluted somewhere in the mad race of life to make good the lost time.
Today, times have changed. India has become more of a service centric nation and provides world class talent at a competitive rate and many MNCs opt India as destination for their service requirements. Global banks and MNCs have set their base in financial capital of India- Mumbai and many other tier I & II cities and CAs are their top choice. A CA student goes through a lot of hardship and tough times, a fact that is not hidden by anyone. Very few are lucky enough to clear the CA examinations smoothly without any backlogs. Missing out on even one attempt would mean sacrificing half a year. In a matter of just two attempts, a full year is lost. But then giving up and losing hope would be the easiest thing to do. After finally clearing, the student steps into the world of earning. Time has come to make up for all the years that were spent studying .Statistically speaking, very few would opt for doing his/her own practice as it requires a lot of patience and luck too. Clients prefer their old and trusted CAs who have handled their accounts for generations. Corporate jobs look more lucrative, they pay well. It looks hassle free and MNCs these days have whole-lot of fancy schemes to retain employees. And this is where the biggest flaw in the trivial system comes into play- Only practicing members are allowed to run for the elections. I wish ICAI reserves at least 2 seats,if not more, for those CAs in service sector. I could think of many benefits of doing so ( I am sure there must be many draw backs too , but I am focusing on the positives)
1.CA’s in service industry will have a representation and they too can voice their opinions, hardships, challenges.
2. Many young CAs are now in the service industry, they can come up with new ideas and fresh blood and bring the CA fraternity to new heights.
3. This would help build good networking on the lines of IIMs where the alumni connect is very strong and in turn this helps on campus placement.
4. Having worked in corporate, they would know what the industry wants and accordingly they can suggest to fine tune the course content. For instance, I feel knowledge of SAP is more relevant than knowing the Software development cycle.
5. Workshops can be conducted for students to give industry insights which would help them make better career decisions and to make an informed decision as to which industry should be chosen for career.
6. Industrial training can become more fruitful for the aspiring CA student.
7. A semi-qualified CA (not able to clear finals) can get a push to service industry with the backing of ICAI since he/she is not eligible to start his/her own practice. There is no lack of knowledge but still not having the degree is as good as being just a graduate. However, campus placement for such students and networking of CA fraternity in service sector would definitely give an added advantage to them.
8. Capitalize on the technical knowledge and the real practical implication. For instance, how a multinational bank would adopt to BASEL III norms, how the industry will upgrade it’s reporting tools and platform to meet the regulatory requirements of reporting.
9. Help bring the best practices shared across industry on table and help cascade them even to the lowest level of ICAI and its support staff.
In this age of digitalization and virtual world , even ICAI has adopted to cloud computing and e-classes, hence I truly feel with changing times, a CA from service industry must be on the panel . With so much of competition all around, MBAs,CFAs, we must not let our guards down. No doubt ours is a legacy of rich heritage but then change is the need of the hour- Change in thought process. Being trapped in comfort zone has proven to be detrimental even to the best of the best. Even countries need to adapt to the growing demands of change. Our own country India had to go through huge change which we now know as Liberalization of 1992 & onwards.
I sincerely hope someday ICAI allows a non-practicing CA to contest for elections. It will prove to be a stepping stone towards a new beginning. However, I do see a silver lining in the vision statement, it emphasizes on financial services. I may or may not contest the election ,if this becomes a reality, but one thing is assured, the student will never die inside me.
I wish each one of you all the very best for all the future endeavours.
The views expressed in this article are my own views. I do not intend to hurt any sentiments or start a debate. Please feel free to agree, dis-agree, put forward your own views.