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A multi-purpose account

CAs now are critical to any business, and can easily climb to the top rung of an organisation, writes Rahat Bano.

education Updated: May 23, 2012 12:41 IST
Rahat Bano

We are just past that time of the year when taxpayers scramble to catch hold of a chartered accountant (CA) who can do the maths and save them time and money. But that is not the only task these “complete business solutions providers” do.

A CA is a highly-prized individual who can go right up to the higher echelons of a company, becoming the Chief Financial Officer or something similar.

Abhishek Kumar, 26, is a consultant for indirect taxes with one of the so-called Big Four financial firms in Gurgaon. He says, “Apart from a few legal requirements, a CA can do what an MBA, a company secretary, a cost and works accountant or CIMA (the US’s Chartered Institute of Management Accountants professional) can do. A CA is an all-rounder. He can bowl. He can bat. He can field.”
“The scope is very wide” in this profession, says Kumar.

Before becoming a full-fledged CA, one has to do an articleship, something like an internship which is part of the study programme. Ashok Haldia, former secretary, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), says that articleship enables a CA to perform different roles. “With a little adaptation, many CAs look after marketing, HR, and research and development. Thanks to the training, he’s a multi-faceted personality.” However, Haldia adds that a CA plus an MBA degree is a “deadly combination”.

Haldia predicts, “Finance is the centre of any business activity and anybody with expertise in finance can and would find many opportunities. (Despite the slowdown) The market demand for CAs is almost at the same level.” The average package offered in ICAI’s March-April 2009 campus placement programme was about Rs 6 lakh, the same as February-April 2008.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Chartered accountancy is primarily about accounting, auditing and taxation. A chartered accountant is trained in various aspects of finance and accounting. S/he helps companies and individuals in tax planning and compliance. Styled as complete business solutions providers, these professionals’ roleplay includes ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, capital structure and planning, organisational development, conducting and preparing feasibility study and project reports, mobilising financial resources, installing internal accounting and budgetary controls to giving advice on issues such as joint ventures, foreign collaborations, amalgamation, merger, diversification, product pricing, BPO etc

CLOCK WORK
9am: Record transactions (e.g., process payments to vendors and employees, claims, investments, receipts)
Noon: Check that all compliances are taken care of. In the first week of the month, see if the company has paid service tax, excise, etc (depending on the industry)
1 pm: Lunch
2 pm: Prepare budget, monitor it. Make reports
4 pm: Finalise financial statements
7 pm: Leave for home

THE PAYOFF
A fresh CA’s average pay is Rs 6 lakh. In ICAI’s March-April 2009 campus placements, the salaries offered ranged from Rs 3 lakh a year to over Rs 9 lakh. The highest salary offered for an international posting was Rs 23 lakh a year

Skills
n Highly analytical mind
n Quantitative aptitude
n Reading habit as you need to continually update yourself (e.g., as taxes are repealed and new regimes introduced)
n Ability of strategic management
n Ability to get into details without losing the larger perspective
n Perseverance
n Integrity

How do i get there?
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is the only body that awards the CA qualification. Steps to becoming a CA are: after Class X, enrol for the Common Proficiency Test (CPT). Prepare for the CPT in your Plus Two. Take the CPT after Class XII exams. Clear CPT and Class XII. Register for the Professional Competence Course (PCC), articled training and 100-hour Information Technology Training (ITT). After ITT and the specified duration of articleship, sit for the Professional Competence Exam (PCE). Take up the CA final course. You may do the general management and communication skills (GMCS) course in the last 12 months of your articleship, while pursuing the final course. Finish the 3.5-year articleship. After practical training, pass the final exam and finish the GMCS course

INSTITUTES & URLS
n Institute of Chartered Accountants of India
www.icai.org
n Under an MoU, Indira Gandhi National Open University offers a special BCom programme in accountancy and finance that complements ICAI’s CA curriculum. Those enrolling for the BCom degree are exempted from certain subjects covered in the CA programme. IGNOU also offers an MCom in finance and taxation to CA Final enrolees

Pros & Cons
n Becoming a CA is not a big monetary investment (the tuition and registration fees for all courses and articleship is Rs 19,500
n It is a profession of trust
n You are an essential part of the business
n Updating yourself requires effort
n In general, the pay is lower than that of an MBA
n Clearing the finals in one shot is not easy