The future of accountancy in Malaysia - an interview with the MIA

Posted on 12 December 2016
The future of accountancy in Malaysia - an interview with the MIA

We recently ran a joint interview with the MIA (Malaysian Institute of Accountants), to find out what the future of accountancy holds in Malaysia and what the interesting topics are. 

Interview was completed by:

  • MIA – Nurmazilah Dato’ Mahzan, Chief Executive Officer of Malaysian Institute of Accountants
  • KAPLAN - Tanya Worsley, Head of Global Professional Accountancy for Kaplan

What are the new niche areas in which talents can tap for growth of their career?

MIA: Among the current trends that are creating waves in the accountancy profession are Big Data and Analytics.  Companies of all sizes create massive structured, unstructured and semi-structured data every day. Organisations harnessing Big Data would be able to find new insights and discover unique patterns of their customer behaviour, for example, or even create new businesses that are previously not possible.

Accountants and financial professionals can leverage on Big Data. This is because they have the ability to digest and analyse data in such a way that it makes it easier for management to make informed decisions.

Moreover, accountants and financial professionals could also play strategic roles in their respective organisations as their ability to interpret and provide useful insights into data could reveal numerous business opportunities.

Kaplan: As pointed out by Dr.  Nurmazilah, businesses today depend on their accountants beyond purely checking financial figures and balancing books. Financial professionals are expected to be able to provide actionable insights to their clients that can add value to the organisation’s overarching strategic goals.  

This requires accountants to be updated with the latest trends in business to be industry relevant. Professional education and certification plays a key role in this. The syllabi of professional exams are frequently updated by the institutes to ensure that they build in key trends and competencies which allow future accountants to equip themselves with the necessary skills and knowledge be ahead in their career.

Malaysia is moving towards becoming the development hub for accountancy in ASEAN, but there is a dire lack of Bumiputera accountants. How to address this issue?

MIA: The government’s announcement that Malaysia needs 60,000 accountants to achieve the High Income Nation status shows that the government recognises the role of accountants in the economy. The MIA is passionate and committed in ensuring that the target is achieved. Nonetheless, it is not an easy task although there are currently about 33,000 accountants registered with the Institute.

Apart from the numbers game, the MIA’s objective is to address this talent gap by nurturing more professional accountants with the right attitude and competency to fulfil Malaysia’s development need.

The gap also relates to diversity and inclusivity where currently there is limited number of Bumiputra Professsional Accountants registered with MIA. Therefore, we are working closely with the relevant agencies, educational institutions and associations to achieve the required supply of accountants needed by 2020.

The initiatives include having several joint engagements with the Malaysia Professional Accountancy Centre (MyPAC), Yayasan Peneraju Pendidikan Bumiputera (YPPB) and Maktab Rendah Sains MARA (MRSM) to encourage Bumiputra students to pursue professional qualifications.

We have also intensified our efforts to engage with schools to promote awareness and educating students about the career opportunities of the accountancy profession.  

The other initiatives by the MIA is the Accounting Students Conference (ASC), which aims to provide students with insights into the accountancy profession and to equip them with the knowledge as to what is required of them as a professional accountant. Here, the MIA will invite all universities fall under Part I of the First Schedule of the Accountants Act 1967 to bid to host the ASC once every 2 years.

The Institute has also collaborated with TalentCorp on various initiatives such as the Structured Internship Programme (SIP) for member firms and Aspiring Accountants Programme (AAP). The SIP aims to encourage Malaysian students who are pursuing accounting degree (or equivalent) to gain relevant work experience in an accounting environment. The programme also provides opportunity for Small and Medium Practice (SMP) firms to engage with potential employees whilst coaching them during the internship period.

The AAP is a programme designed for non-accounting graduates to encourage them to embark on a career in accounting. The AAP is a foundation course to facilitate students from non-accounting disciplines to be trained and qualify as Chartered Accountants. Subsequent to joining the AAP, candidates will be placed in a six weeks foundation course, which is fully funded by TalentCorp. Upon successful completion of the course, candidates will be offered a training contract towards gaining a professional accounting qualification whilst working in one of our members’ firm

Kaplan: Kaplan’s courses are designed to be inclusive to all and allow students from all backgrounds and lifestyles to access courses and training for professional qualifications.

What type of flexibility is provided by the online platform allowing more individuals access to professional accountancy courses, and how and why should the individuals take advantage of that?

MIA: Studying professional accountancy courses online allows students to study at their own pace. This means students can study anytime, anywhere as long as there are good internet facilities.

There are many professional bodies that offer various accountancy courses online. Apart from the structured schedules of the online classroom sessions they can have access to the recording of the sessions, if they miss them.

The MIA recognises the benefits that e-learning offers to its members. Currently, there are 81 e-learning programmes offered to the MIA members on various topics covering the accountancy profession from accounting and governance to finance to soft skills. Earlier, this year the MIA has collaborated with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) to provide e-learning programme on professional scepticism for auditors.

Kaplan: Kaplan launched its Live Online courses in Malaysia in 2015 and since then has welcomed many students into our global virtual classroom. The courses offer scheduled live lectures with expert lecturers in a highly interactive virtual classroom. Students are able to ask questions of the lecturers, participate in group discussions and interact with their fellow students in real time using the instant messenger chat function.

Students can attend the Live Online lectures from anywhere with a reasonable Internet connection so they can juggle their work, study, career advancement and family life more easily. In addition to this the lectures are all recorded which means that students can review material presented in class again and catch up with lectures they may have missed, at their own pace and at a time suitable to them.

Strengthening the profession through talent development in niche and growing areas – SMEs, Technology and Islamic Finance, can you explain more on this?

MIA: Accountants and finance professionals need to review their level of knowledge periodically, and provide innovative services to meet the growing needs of the SMEs. They must equip themselves with analytical skills and sharpen their communications skills. This means keeping abreast of the latest trends that is happening in the accountancy profession such as the New Auditor’s Report, for example. The changes to auditor reporting will be effective for audits of financial statements for financial years ending on or after 15 December 2016. 

The MIA also strongly encourages its members to embrace technologies as it means of moving forward. We have offered continuing professional education programmes on Big Data, conducted several sessions on cloud-computing as well as provide global updates and trends that are taking place in the business world to prepare our accountants for the present and future. MIA will also continue to identify new programmes relating to technologies that would benefit the accountancy profession as a whole.

Islamic Finance will be a key differentiator for Malaysia and the MIA going forward. Malaysia has accumulated a significant leadership in Islamic Finance and is globally acknowledged for its counsel in related Islamic financial accounting and reporting standards. Fintech, for example is challenging the status quo of the financial industry with new business models emerging while delivery channels are challenging existing norms. In this regards, the MIA would capitalise on this by introducing more comprehensive educational, training and certification programmes on financial industry.

How to attract youngsters, GEN Y and so on, who come with a different behaviour as well as different thinking than the previous generations, to join the accountancy profession? To them it seems to be a pretty boring field. Would they be attracted by the money they can make by being an accountant?

MIA: The accountancy profession offers diverse opportunities. A professional accountancy qualification opens the door to a variety of roles and positions and can take a person places, if the person has the right soft skills and is prepared to work hard. One is not limited to becoming an auditor, but can be inspired to become a CEO or an entrepreneur.

It does not matter what degree or post-graduate degree you possess, with a conversion course and passion in your heart you can move into the world of accounting.

For the Gen Y Z and millennials, they need to be flexible, agile, and adapt well to the changes happening in their respective organisation and, the accountancy profession as well. They also need to be articulate and have the fortitude to overcome challenges. The way we train accountants’ helps builds these attributes and as a bonus, they are in a good position to enter the business world with a sound grasp of business and accounting and with a foundation of ethics and analytical skills.  The tools and way we do things may well change in the future but there will always be a need for our skills as accountants, well into the next millennia.  

Kaplan: Although in the past accountancy may have had a reputation for being limited to preparing or auditing reports based on past financial performance, these days it is a career that opens many more doors. The professional qualifications themselves now aim to create more value added business advisors who can think strategically and provide sound insight influencing the future of businesses. Qualified accountants can therefore go on to work in a diverse range of industries.  

How much does an accountant earn, how do they grow career? Can you tell us the stages involved and what is the earning power of such a profession?

MIA: The earning varies depending on their qualifications, experiences, the size of the organisation they are working for, and the scope of their work.  But I do know of many Chief Financial Officers who earn around RM50K to RM70K a month! 

Kaplan: Here is where we see that online learning can provide a great opportunity for accountants to upskill themselves in order to develop their career.  It bridges the gap for those wanting to get certified, by removing the barriers of having to be physically in attendance in class at a fixed time. , Because the platform allows the flexibility of studying anywhere at any time financial professionals can pursue advanced level qualifications part-time while working. It also gives women who may be considering a return to work after maternity the option to upskill before their return to the workplace. 

Find out more about studying accountancy online with Kaplan.