Chartered Accountant? – 4 things beyond subject matter expertise that ‘industry’ expects from you

Do all roles in the industry circle around core Chartered Accountancy subjects like audit, taxation and accounts?

The answer is no. Then why are Chartered Accountants required in the industry?

Beyond subject matter expertise, there are aspects which companies believe Chartered Accountants are good at, provided you have got some basic exposure during articleship. No, I am not talking about communication skills and excel skills, those are a given.

For this article, I am going to touch upon four points here, which I feel, Chartered Accountants may have naturally acquired during their articleship. I want to you to think about these points and be aware about them. If you were the hiring manager, wouldn’t you look for the points below?

  1. Adaptability:

Many roles on the industry side are not designed to just test your subject knowledge. They also test your commercial adaptability. You need to work on understanding the business, assess the problem and then come up with a solution. For example, you may be placed in a business finance team, where you will need to closely work with the sales team to compute price bid for upcoming client RFPs. Is that something which is taught to us in Chartered Accountancy? No, but it is important, both from companies’ point of view and your point of view. There will be many such activities that you will need to learn on the job, adapt and then deliver.

Don’t get into the habit of comparing everything with Chartered Accountancy subjects. When managers hire, one quality they certainly look for is; can the candidate be coached and molded as per company’s needs. Another reason why this is so important is because companies always look to expose their employees across multiple functions. If you look at any senior finance professional, you will notice that he would have worked in multiple departments, with some being finance and accounts and some being close to operations. So, be a bit more open minded about your first job. Your first job profile is not something where you will be working your entire life.

  1. Stakeholder Management:

During your articleship, you end up meeting and handling so many kinds of people, that stakeholder management comes naturally to you. Over a three-year period, you would have learnt about how to talk to seniors, juniors, managers, partners, office admin, HR, clients etc. Some of you may have also have exposure of meeting and presenting to senior finance executives and CFOs. Some of you may have handled very co-operative executives at clients’ place and some may have handled tougher ones.

Similarly, on the industry side, let’s say, if you are placed in Management Accounting team, then you may have to liaise with SBU finance teams, tax team, AP, AR, Business Heads, GL, treasury, external consultants, auditors and so many other teams, within a large set up. Always remember, ability to build relationships is what is required as you grow higher up the ladder. One needs to work towards acquiring this skill over time. It is not your subject matter expertise that will be tested at higher levels. If you look at a CFO or any senior finance professional, he may not really be an expert in any subject. But, he knows just the right things to ask questions or cross question different teams and consultants. Stakeholder management skills is something which managers will definitely look for in their team.

  1. Commercial Mind:

Having dealt with subjects like finance and costing extensively, companies will expect you to have acquired commercial acumen. Irrespective of the roles you take on the industry side, slowly you should start developing the habit of looking at things in terms of impact and contributions. Let me give you some examples.  

if you are in a pricing role, then you need to understand the margin impact of introducing an INR 200 discount on the product.

If you are involved in implementing an automation tool to automate certain routine activities, then you should be able to estimate the approximate number of man hours saved per month or per annum due to automation.

Similarly, let’s say your company has 3 offices across the city, and you are involved in a project dealing with real estate consolidation, i.e, negotiating a new office and bringing all the teams together, then you should be able to understand the rental savings impact on the P&L.

  1. Sensitivity to timelines:

You work on various deadlines during your articleship. Statutory audit, tax audit, return filing, bank audits, certifications, responding to tax authorities and so many other situations. Similarly, on the industry side, companies trust your ability to adhere to deadlines. Most of the companies have a closing calendar / finance calendar covering aspects like monthly closing, inter-company cut off, budget & forecast submissions, management commentaries, working capital review and so on. Many times, teams are inter-dependent on each other, for example, HQ may be able to consolidate its accounts only after branches/ business units submit their closing pack. Thus, understanding these dependencies and being sensitive about timelines in the calendar is very important.

So that’s it for now. There could be many more qualities of a Chartered Accountant, which can prove to be very valuable for a company like ethics, integrity, responsibility, commitment, knowledge of internal controls and many others. I want you to think about these subtle aspects when you are working on the industry side. Don’t just try to fit everything in the ‘Chartered Accountancy subject matter box’.

Don’t just try to fit everything in the ‘Chartered Accountancy subject matter box’.

Dhawal Parvatikar

Financial Controller, CA at FleishmanHillard

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