Hong Kong Management Trainee Jobs and Programs in Accounting
Accountants measure an organisation’s financial situation, by calculating and recording information about an organisation’s economic activities (such as assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses), in order to communicate that information to internal and external users like management, regulators, shareholders and investors.
What do you need to know to get a job in accounting?
Areas of Accounting Study
To find work as an accountant, a tertiary accounting qualification (usually a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field like commerce with an accounting major) is usually the minimum qualification required. An accountant needs generalised knowledge of each of the major accounting fields (financial accounting, management accounting, taxation, financial auditing and accounting information systems) in order to become fluent in the “language of business”.
An accounting degree may be used to count towards the completion of membership requirements to a professional accounting body like the CAA or CPA (more on chartered accountancy below). A master’s degree will improve a candidate’s desirability to some companies, as will specialised knowledge.
- Financial Accounting
Financial accountants prepare financial statements using data from a past period to give as accurate as possible a depiction of an organisation’s current financial position and performance, in order that people outside the organisation with an interest in it, such as investors, stakeholders, creditors and government agencies may make informed decisions based on relevant and accurate reporting. They rely on the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to complete their work.
- Management Accounting
Management accountants provide both financial and non-financial predictive information to managers, in order for them to make future decisions and plans regarding their organisation. Management accountants are not merely reporters, but are involved in the decision-making in the organisation. They are “value-creators”, integrating information from all areas of the organisation. Their work covers strategic management, performance management and risk management. Instead of GAAP, management accountants will often use “management information systems” (MIS) to compute their work, meaning a management accountant will need a clear understanding of accounting and management information systems.
Tax accountants use accounting information to calculate tax payable by an organisation, and are involved in the preparation of tax returns and other documents for regulatory bodies. In addition (and in contrast to a tax agent), a tax accountant looks ahead to the company’s future, offering advice on financial planning, legitimate tax reduction strategies, and in general helping businesses grow.
- Financial Auditing
Financial auditors independently examine accounting records and make a judgement on their validity and reliability, expressing an opinion as to whether the documents are a “true and fair” representation of the company’s financial position and performance. This includes cost accounting – verifying that the costs of everything recorded in a company’s cost accounts are accurate. Before a publicly trading company may release its financial statements to investors and shareholders, they must be approved by a third-party auditor, who then expresses a public opinion as to whether the statements can be trusted or not. The “Big Four” (Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst & Young and PwC) audit most public companies.
Industry experience is absolutely essential to gaining graduate placement with any major accounting firm, or a position in any large corporation. Most firms offer vacation work or internships, as do some small to medium companies. Work experience can count towards (and is a requirement) for gaining membership to a professional accounting body such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Professional Membership and Chartered Accounting
Membership with one of Australia’s three professional accounting bodies, the Institute of Chartered Accounting (CA), Certified Practicing Accountants Australia (CPA) or the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) is a prerequisite for employment at many large accountancy firms. The CA and the CPA are the two most common forms of membership – similar in many ways, although there are some slight differences.
The CA has traditionally been associated with accounting firms, while the CPA is a qualification more commonly found in accountants working inside companies. The CA requires a tertiary degree with an Accounting major, 26 weeks Practical Experience with a chartered accountant, and completing three years employment with a recognised CA organisation (like the Big Four). It is said to be slightly more difficult than the CPA which requires a tertiary degree (or passing eight exams on foundational accounting and business knowledge), completion of the CPA program (which has theoretical and practical components) and continued professional development.
As part of their graduate programs, the Big Four offer Chartered Accountants Programs to support their graduates through coaching, workshops and peer learning. They will also sponsor their employee to undertake the CA.
Strong communication skills
Contrary to common belief about accounting, the profession requires someone highly skilled in written and oral communication. A financial statement, a cost analysis or an auditor’s evaluation – all an accountant’s numbers need to be contextualised and explained for them to have meaning to decision makers. Yet many accounting graduates leave tertiary education with inadequate communication skills. This is a huge disadvantage given employers rank good communication high on their list of priorities. It is essential for a student to develop their communication skills in order to succeed in this profession. There are a few ways this can be done – including studying effective communicators, undertaking writing courses, debating and learning to speak up in class. Most universities will also require presentation as part of an accounting subject’s assessment.
Macroeconomic Trends and Accounting Graduate Work Prospects
The Hong Kong accounting sector employs over 29 000 people. Of the main accounting firms, the “Big Four” mainly service the large listed companies, and dominate the market in terms of fees. However many smaller accounting firms exist to service the SME market. Most accountants in Hong Kong belong to the HKICPA (Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants). Hong Kong accountants also export their services to the mainland, and this has increased since the signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement.
Accounting Salary Averages
Entry-level accounting salaries are typically not very high, but vary depending on the organisation -from around HK$270 000 in a smaller firm to HK$315 000 if employed by the Big Four. However, with a few years’ experience the salaries may rise substantially.
Benefits to accounting management trainees will depend on the organisation. Some firms offer financial bonuses, support and sponsorship for professional accreditation, while most will offer some kind of mentoring and health insurance.