Human Capital & Careers

Making Accounting Cool

As demand for CPAs runs high, accounting firms are using creativity to sell potential accountants on the profession.
Jennifer LeeFebruary 22, 2007

When it comes to names, India has no qualms about being different. Take, for example, the recent decision by the council of the Institute of Chartered Accountancy of India (ICAI) to up the profile of its accountants by adding the prefix CA to the names of all licensed CPAs, following the example set by doctors and members of the armed forces. Now a CPA named Mohamed Singh will be addressed as CA Mohamed Singh, though it is unclear whether one is meant to say “C” “A” or just to address the person as “Ka”.

Either way, the decision could be a smart move at a time when demand for accountancy services is rising, the result of increasing regulation, a hot economy, record levels of M&A, and the adoption of international accounting standards. The pressure for new recruits has become so intense that bigger pay packages simply aren’t enough to attract them anymore. Firms are finding they have to offer signing bonuses, longer holidays, gym memberships, and other perks. And smaller outfits, especially, are having trouble sourcing enough graduates at home, leading them to broaden their search to less-developed nations. In October, the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) announced that it had opened an office in Beijing, its first in China. It has signed an agreement to cooperate with the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants to help 1,500 mainland accountants obtain Hong Kong qualifications over the coming ten years.

The accounting industry is also trying to strip away the profession’s stodgy veneer. In Vancouver, one accounting firm sent its employees to the opening of “Star Wars” in a theatre the firm rented just for the occasion, popcorn included. In England, the accountancy firm Solomon Hare and financial advisory Smith & Williamson sponsored the annual British Bodyboard Championships in October.

Accountancy bodies are also taking an ever more radical — for accountants — approach to promoting the profession. In Australia, where there is one accountant for every four job openings, the Institute of Chartered Accountants developed an ad campaign, run in movie theatres, focusing on the advantages of being a CPA, namely global opportunities and travel.

In Hong Kong, the HKICPA reported that 74 percent of those who saw one of its recent ads said they had not considered accounting as a profession before, but would now consider it. The ad parodied Donald Trump’s popular job interview television show, “The Apprentice”. In it, job applicants grill a Trump look-alike about his accountancy qualifications. When he does not confirm that his company offers QP, the HKICPA’s qualification program, the apprentices together say, “Sir, you’re fired!”