Chartered Accountants in the India of today are a troubled breed. We are threatened.
Threatened by the rise of MBAs, of the increase in the number of CIMAs, of the constant pressures related to cost cutting across Indian corporate.
We can no longer feel that the jobs we have been grabbing over the past decade shall come to us automatically. Of course there is Statutory Audit assignments over which we hold sway yet for how long can this one side of the business over which we hold monopolistic sway feed us and give fuel to our self actualization needs - our need to rise higher in the organization?
There are certain problems that we need to iron out as CAs if we are to compete against the MBAs of this World.
Firstly, let’s look at our strengths:
1. Statutory power
2. Practical knowledge of taxation and corporate law
3. Articleship experience which we pass off as Work Experience
However, let us also understand how these strengths can be emulated by others. Other than the statutory right to carry out audits, our other strengths is at the mercy of any candidate who does NOT take the effort to prepare himself. Lets face facts, Corporate Law can be learnt from books just as we have and the same goes for Taxation. Our articleship experience is looked at by Human Resources as amounting to very little unless it’s a BIG4 consulting or one of the larger Local firms. Furthermore, IIMs and the like advertise their efforts to make their graduates practically oriented in a far more effective manner than ICAI.
How long would it be before a potential MBA-in-Finance decides to spend his holiday at a Tax or a Law firm?
There goes the advantage.
Now, our weaknesses.
1. Public speaking - We are terrible when it comes to expressing ourselves. If you've been getting advice that GMCS will take care of your public speaking skills or have been told that "dude, just pass and everything will be alright", then you're being mislead. Of course if you rank/pass quickly enough you will be employed. But one day your colleague who can be an asset when it comes to client facing assignments will fly over you. Believe me!
Start now. Learn to listen to people when they speak. Remember the way they pronounce certain words. Instead of watching movies/going to facebook when your online, go to youtube.com and watch videos of Teachers like Sir Ken Robinson and comedies such as Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister - a British comedy I HATED when I was in Class 1 & 2 cause I never understood a word of what they were saying and then by Class 4 I was enjoying every word of it.
DON'T ape the British accent. You don’t need that. In fact you don’t need any kind of accent to begin with. It’s often said, Indians 'sing' while talking. Our voices and words travel through many crests and troughs. Stop doing that. Lets make sure we say what is correct and to the point. Not too flowery or too dreary.
2. Business writing skills - There's only 1 way to make yourself better in this. Write notes in your own language. Write blogs. Write articles online. Try and notice the subtle change in tense and the use of grammar when you receive an official mail. Try and emulate it.
Remember - No smileys, no sms language.
3. Dress sense - Its time to look the part.
Each and every one of you out there MUST have at least:
a) Three full sleeve White shirts preferably NOT button down. White means white, not off-white.
b) Three full sleeve Blue shirts preferably NOT button down. Not navy blue.
c) Two suits, one black, one blue.
d) Half a dozen ties. No dolphins and tigers should be on your tie please, rather go for stripes. No not tiger stripes either. Get maybe 3/4 blue stripes, 2/3 red striped ties.
As long as you keep changing your shirt and tie nobody will notice the same suit you're wearing. Trust me. I speak from experience.
4. Knowledge, wide not deep - We know our taxation, we know our Corp Laws, we know our Finance. But, do we know it as much in details as we know, say, our Financial Reporting topics? It’s the same problem our IIMs face when compared to Kellogg and Wharton MBAs - we go wide, not deep into a subject. Its time to start specializing. Buy books with your savings, not gadgets. Learn in detail about the Industry and its practices.
We should be EXPERTS on matters such as:
a) Enron - WorldCom accounting frauds.
b) Key financial terms
c) Heads of major financial entities namely foreign banks, large US conglomerates/corporations, Hedge funds and PE funds
This will set us apart from most MBAs.
Last but not least - spread the good word. We should compete in our professional work not otherwise. If you see a CA looking like an advertising hoarding and talking like an American teenager, take him out to lunch and explain to him in somber tones why you think he is going about it the wrong way.
Do not make fun of our tribe. We are a threatened species as it is!