‘Highly mobile’ professionally, but not rewarded enough

By Kazim Alam, The Express Tribune

KARACHI: Affiliates and students of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in Pakistan are ‘highly mobile’: more than a third of them have changed their professional roles in the last 12 months alone, according to the recently-released ACCA Students and Affiliates Salary and Career Survey 2012.

More than half of those surveyed changed their professional role within the same organisation over the 12-month period, the survey revealed; adding that four out of every 10 ACCA affiliates and students in the country have previously worked in a different sector.

Less than half of Pakistani ACCA students (45%) – who must work fulltime to meet their academic requirements – received a pay raise in the preceding 12 months, the survey said. On the contrary, the corresponding figure for all 23 countries where the survey was conducted concurrently stood at a much higher 63%.

“I think seniority plays an important role with regard to salary increases. Our affiliates and students in Pakistan are younger than their counterparts in many parts of the world, so they still serve in the junior and middle level positions,” said Arif Masood Mirza, head of ACCA Pakistan, while speaking to The Express Tribune.

The survey was conducted in the second quarter of 2012. A total of 22,379 responses were collected globally. Mirza said he was unaware as to how many of the respondents belonged to Pakistan.

Almost three-fourths of the ACCA students in Pakistan expect to work in a ‘specialist finance role’ in the future, while 87% of them plan to move abroad. Similarly, 69% of ACCA students say they want to start their own businesses.

Mirza said that as opposed to working in financial services or the corporate sector, most affiliates and students of ACCA in Pakistan prefer joining ‘public practice’: defined as accounting services offered to businesses and the public.

This, despite the fact that of all professional avenues open to ACCA students, pay increases are least frequent in public practice, according to the survey. For example, 54% of the respondents working for the public sector said they received a raise in the last one year. Similarly, the corresponding figure for both corporate and financial services sectors was 57% for the last 12 months. In contrast, only 25% of the respondents currently attached with public practice said their salary increased over the preceding 12 months.

“Public practice in Pakistan is largely controlled by the Big-4,” Mirza said, referring to the four largest auditing firms of the country where most ACCA students try to find a job. “While they don’t pay as much as the financial services sector, one can’t ignore the fact that the volume of their overall business has increased primarily because of non-auditing services – such as advisory and consultancy – that they now offer,” he said.

Mirza stated that one reason ACCA students get paid better in the financial services is the uninterrupted bullish trends in Pakistan’s banking and financial services sectors, unlike their western counterparts.

Moreover, the continuous tightening of the regulatory noose around the neck of corporate Pakistan has increased the demand of professionally sound accountants who can handle complex legal problems, Mirza says. “As the central bank and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan introduce more stringent regulations, the need for qualified accountants to ensure compliance goes up,” he adds.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 27, 2012.

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