A single degree is never enough to succeed in today’s dynamic corporate world. Find out how one professional has decided to stay on top of his game by taking up the ACA certification offered by ICAEW.
By Benjamin Lim
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) is a professional organisation supporting over 136,000 chartered accountants around the world.
In collaboration with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ICPAS), the body offers professionals the opportunity to attain the internationally recognised Associate Chartered Accountant (ACA) qualification in Singapore.
Mervyn Tan started his ACA course in 2009 when he joined PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) as an Audit Associate.
Having graduated from the London School of Economics with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, the 24-year-old thought having a qualification in Accountancy would bolster his understanding of market forces on a deeper level, which is especially important in today’s constantly evolving world where one needs to have a broader view of the economy in order to make the right decisions.
“Economics helped me comprehend the macro picture, and accountancy builds on this knowledge by giving me an insight into how businesses function. Equipped with these skills, I would be able to tackle the problems that companies face,” Mervyn says.
This knowledge is critical in Mervyn’s job scope. As an Audit Associate, he helps clients solve complex financial accounting issues related to matters such as valuations and share listings, among others.
An unconventional course
There are many institutions in Singapore that offer accountancy qualifications for working professionals, but only the ACA appealed to Mervyn as it was the most comprehensive course in terms of allowing one to gain a full spectrum of knowledge in the subject.
He was also won over by the established history of ICAEW as well as its strong emphasis on ethics.
“In recent years there have been numerous cases of companies plagued by ethical issues in their accounts, the most notorious being the Enron scandal. Thus the ACA course’s focus on ethics shapes its students to be better all-round accountants, which is what companies are actively seeking these days.”
Unlike other accountancy courses which are held in private schools, Mervyn’s ACA course is self-taught. This gives him more flexibility without having to forgo work commitments.
The ACA course comprises 14 modules, and students are also required to clock at least 450 days of technical experience, as well as undergo training in ethics-related matters before they become fully-certified Chartered Accountants.
While one may be able to finish the academic modules in a year if he devotes his entire time to the curriculum, Mervyn advises against this method of studying.
“Finishing the course earlier does not equate to being certified at the same time. You still need to build up your work experience, which means you actually still have a lot to catch up if you choose to fulfil both criteria separately.”
On the contrary, Mervyn, like most students in the ACA course, hits the books while juggling work concurrently. This supplements their learning by allowing them to apply the theory knowledge to real-world practices on a daily basis, killing two birds with one stone.
A selfless community
An average student spends two and a half years to be certified as a Chartered Accountant, and the duration of the course largely depends on one’s ability to manage time well and set the right priorities to ensure that neither work nor studies is compromised.
However, should students require help in their coursework; they can always count on ICAEW’s deeply-entrenched student network comprising former and current students. Not only do they offer advice on problems, they also help arrange group lessons for students taking the same module.
The assistance offered by the student network goes beyond academics. Besides attending networking sessions which allow for interaction with one another, students are also given opportunities to speak to companies interested in hiring accountants.
Given that there is no concrete institution for ICAEW students and everything is done on a voluntary basis, Mervyn welcomes the immense amount of support offered by the student network.
Across all fields
Potential ACA students may have some initial apprehensions to enrol in the course, believing that a finance-related degree is needed in order to understand the accountancy curriculum. This is not true, as Mervyn explains.
“Students in the ACA course come from various academic and career backgrounds, and most find studying the modules a breeze because the course assumes its students to not have a related background. As such the curriculum is structured in such a way that it is easy to understand, just like studying for an entirely new degree.”
Already midway through his course, Mervyn encourages working professionals and students alike to not rest on their laurels, but continue to upgrade themselves further by taking up the ACA certification.
Summing up the course’s advantages, he affirms, “You will certainly benefit from ICAEW’s established network and strong community. But more importantly, it is the comprehensive set of skills acquired from this professional qualification which will help you tremendously in your work.”