The passing out with flying colors from the institute of Chartered Accountants of India in finals provides us two directions to explore , either to opt for a job in the corporate world and to start a public practice. It’s important to understand that this is a very important period of transition. Whether you are moving into a new work environment of public practice or learning the ropes of working a regular nine to five in starting out in an industry to take up the first job of your career, there is a lot to understand before venturing out.
An increasing number of CA graduates these days prefer to join corporate than set up their own practice, as real estate and infrastructure investment costs spiral. Data with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) indicates that this year, the number of working CAs will, for the first time ever; surpass the number of practicing CAs in the country. Many believe that with increasing employment opportunities, practicing CAs will be 20%, while working CAs will be 80% by 2020. The number of women CAs will increase to 30% in the next decade from the current 16% .In the early 1980s, the total composition of CAs was 80% in private practice and 20% employed. “Post-1991, things have changed dramatically. Eighty per cent of CAs will be working for industry by 2020. Over the past decade, 90% are in jobs and just 10% are in private practice,” says TN Manoharan, A Padamshree awardee , former ICAI President and present Chairman of a large PSU Bank.
CA PRACTICE- A REAL TEST OF LIFE
Good quality of patience with extra courage to practice is a basic mantra to decide for public practice. The qualification opens the opportunity to set up independently as a sole practitioner. A member opting for public practice shall have a success rate based on intense or diversified article ship. If you are having tons of patience, go ahead with your own practice otherwise join some established CA firm. In order to remain focused in the chosen area of practice it is necessary for a CA firm to carefully set short term and long term goals.
When a fresh chartered accountant enters into a CA practice he usually opts for a family owned firm or he joins a running firm as a partner. He can also start a new firm from point zero either alone or with his friends who are in the same scenario. In practice scenario number one and two the fresher has a very limited choice and has to fall into the channel at least initially. The fact is that despite being inducted as a partner, he is not able to influence the set thinking pattern of the established firm and in reality is not a partner by heart. Many established CA firms are so sure of their traditional set practice areas and the mode of practice adopted by them that they are averse to the process of reviewing their performance. A fresh CA has a clear cut choice of selection of practice areas and setting of goals only in the third scenario.
A practicing member holds full time COP and is restricted for active engagement in other business. However, a member may opt for certain permissible occupation under C.A. Regulations. For the same, a member is required to file a prescribed application for permission for Engagement in other occupation under Regulation 190(A) of the Chartered Accountants Regulations, 1988. A member can also hold honorary, nominated or elected positions in public and government. Staying in public practice offers the opportunity for transfers to different areas of practice (e.g. tax, corporate finance or management consultancy) or, alternatively, a move to a different-sized firm. In the large international firms, overseas opportunities are possible.
But, Investment in setting up office and related infrastructure is huge. Also, one has to work hard to find clients. Setting up one’s own practice may take three to five years, a reasonably long period. Unfortunately CAs has not remained immune to inflation unlike the clients’ propensity to pay appropriate and fair fees! Subscribing to knowledge based websites and purchase of books have all kept pace with inflation and sometimes have outrun inflation, thereby disproportionately increasing operating costs with the revenue generation. There is virtually no support from any quarter. In the last twenty five years, the beginning years of practice were largely financed by the bank audit fees. But no such opportunity is exists now. For the first three years, a young man is not even eligible to conduct the statutory bank audit. The Sole proprietors are not eligible for concurrent audits for their life time. They are debarred from RRB audits. Virtually, there is no opportunity and all such conditions have been put around to serve the Big 4 in the initial years of practice.
CA SERVICE- A REAL PLEASURE OF LIFE
CAs in Industry gets big salary packages for CAs in metros or with the Big 4 firms. The regulator claims there is a huge demand for CAs in the manufacturing and financial services sectors and Fresh graduates get a minimum package of Rs 6 lakh per annum, which is attractive for a 24-year-old graduate. Naturally, most young CAs prefers to work in industry, where they get lucrative salaries without any capital investment.
ICAI has a well established system of Campus Interview and arranges campus interview twice in a year at different locations. A member may register online with ICAI for campus interview immediately after passing C.A. examination. A large number of fresh chartered accounts are selected every year through campus interview for public sector, private sector, multinationals, banking and insurance companies. Good perks and service conditions are being offered by companies participating in ICAI Campus interviews. It’s not enough, the reality is different and it’s worst in two tier cities.
Brilliant students get what is claimed by the regulator —but at the same time we are also stuck with mediocre students who proudly prefix their name with ‘CA’! Today a CA can be hired for as little as Rs 20,000 per month and still one finds that CA is jobless! The reality bites! This is as much as a graduate gets in a call centre ! Career progression in this setting varies, depending on individual aspirations and abilities, but in industry it is possible to progress to finance director of a major company within 10 to 15 years of qualification. It is like seeing a light at the last of the tunnel. However, a member in employment and holding Certificate of Practice cannot perform audit certification and will not be entitled to train articled clerk. One can also opt for service first then practice for whole life.
No job, alternative–practice? No practice, alternative–job?
With CAs is flooding the market and not getting a job, the alternative is to start a practice—which is not so easy as the cost of setting up a new practice in metros is very steep with property prices , rentals are beyond the reach of most freshly qualified CAs budgets. One of the methods of development is that we need to find ways and means of working together and increasing revenue. We pool together the resources and the knowledge base. Some of us must develop resources and some of us can develop a knowledge base. We have to standardize ourselves to the changing economy and business structure. We need to get together like-minded professionals and evolve a working relationship which can sustain in the long run. We need to develop a bigger brand as well.
For a practice every partner has to be a “rainmaker” who brings in business through personnel connections.Its fight for the survival and the fittest shall survive. It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.
BE A SPECIALIST
The rising demand for CAs in the corporate sector will result in competition between CAs in the job market. The competition in the practice will not increase. However, a large number of CAs is joining corporate every year and their performance will be rated. Any CA who wants to remain successful has to constantly upgrade his skills.” If one seriously wants to pursue a career as a CA, one will have to assess the focus area of specialization, whether one wants to go into the industry or practice.
In the near future, companies may start replacing non-performing CAs with fresh CAs as fresh CAs is available in plenty. Companies may also look forward to recruiting the fresh as cost cutting measure as fresh CAs is costing less. We as true professionals will have to specialize in various domains to keep growing. There are powerful advantages to specialization, including being able to command higher billing rates, generating more leads, and being able to attract clients more easily. We can focus on understanding an industry so well that we can give an alternate to all the non-accounting business challenges which the industry is facing. Then we can have meaningful conversations about how our services help that industry solve other problems –problems that other CA firms will completely miss. This is a big advantage and will bring you better leads because you offer more solutions. The specialization may be of many types like geographical specialization, specialization in a certain role within organizations & specialization in certain types of problems.
LEARN TO BE MEMBER OF TEAM WORK
Starting a practice as sole proprietor is a difficult task for fresh CAs. This is the first challenge from profession, one has to face if opt for sole proprietors. Now a day’s various domains have emerged. One needs to have a team for direct taxes, indirect taxes, Sebi, NRIs, etc. Clients give work to specialized CAs who have earned a good reputation and are experienced. However, this is not possible for a fresh CA. A fresher cannot hire a team as it also requires a huge investment.
In real life situations, that’s why very few fresh practitioners exercise this choice of being sole proprietary firm. This is writing on the wall written by the regulator that you can only survive with a team of partners. It is hard to believe that sole proprietor is not eligible for an RRB branch audit having an advance limit of Rs. 1 Crore. The relying on the combination of CAs with a free permutation is injurious to the profession, but as long as the mindset of the regulator does not see any light to change, the fraternity has to force the move towards the modalities fixed by the regulator. So for the time, you have to learn to move as a team member or to go for a fake combination of them. We are forced, not to drive our profession to in our own chosen way, but the practitioner has to prefer to get drive by the circumstances. Since it is easier to pluck the low hanging fruit, one finds sufficient justification for this approach.
CA AMRESH VASHISHT, Meerut