|Strip an accountant of his or her exclusive right to
perform a company audit and he or she will have little
else to depend on when it comes to making a living in
this highly competitive world. The reality is that seven
out of ten accountants in Hong Kong are making the move
to provide a wide variety of professional and managerial
services instead of offering bread-and-butter auditing
services. Amazingly, this transition has been achieved
with a great deal of success.
This turned probably perturbs many other professionals,
such as doctors and lawyers, most of whom make a reasonably
comfortable living from practising their professions,
all of which are legally protected and sheltered from
competition. There are few who would choose to venture
beyond these safe confines.
Accountants may not be particularly bold, but we are
qualified and well trained to manage change. We are
equipped with skills to help us adapt to provide the
different services we not offer. However, many of these
service offer better remuneration, prospects and possibly
few responsibilities and risks than those associated
As your LegCo representative, I have been trying to
pacify frazzled nerves in the wake of what can only
be termed an over-reaction to the recent financial turmoil,
and which has seen government regulations quick to load
more responsibilities on auditors.
The Government has imposed more stringent regulations
and reporting requirements as well as complex professional
codes and reporting forms, amongst others, and worst
of all, the fear of being prosecuted and a criminal
record for making errors of professional judgement.
It has often been said that professionals are victims
of their own success. And this is no exception for accountants,
who through hard work and sound training have earned
the exclusive right to perform the audit.
But privileges always come hand-in-hand with responsibilities.
And while the privileges afforded to the accountancy
professional have stayed more or less unchanged for
decades, the professional risks have grown steadily,
making the job no longer as worthwhile for many.
This light at the end of the tunnel ahs resulted in
a shift in recent years, a trend that has not only witnessed
individual accountants choosing to leave the audit profession
of their own free will, but has seen large firms make
the conscious decision to specialise in selected area
such as management consultancy, insolvency practice,
Taking the practising profession as a whole, the availability
of non-audit services is growing at a much faster pace,
probably accounting for the largest proportion of fees
and profit contribution.
The advent of technology is likely to speed up the
shift away from providing traditional auditing services
even further. The audit itself will become increasingly
automated and cost effective - as financial data and
information become generally easier to process analytically,
dependency on traditional audits will diminish. And
so, it will be of no surprise that the auditor's purist
role many become less and less attractive.
But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Accounts have
made the move to conquer non-exclusive service areas
much faster than other professions - many firms are
already in dominant positions in consultancy, tax advisory
Looking ahead, it pays to widen our areas of expertise
rather than devoting all our efforts to defending a
small but privileged territory.