Money matters: ICAP graduates pocket the highest salaries

Published: February 4, 2012

UK-based ACCA makes marginal inroads into ICAP’s CA monopoly. DESIGN: ESSA MALIK

KARACHI: 

“If you’re a social outcast who’s emotionally numb and creatively challenged, you may well be on your way to becoming a chartered accountant,” thus began the speech of a high achiever at the gold medal distribution ceremony of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP) last October.

But what lies in store for chartered accountants once they enter the job market after completing numerous modules and articles? How much does a fresh chartered accountant make after at least six years of academic and practical rigour?

“A qualified CA can expect a starting salary of up to Rs150,000 a month in Karachi. But even in the northern region, the first salary a fresh CA draws is never less than Rs100,000,” said ICAP President Rashid Rahman Mir while talking to The Express Tribune.

According to Yasir Ghouri, 28, who qualified in 2010 as a chartered accountant and now works as a partner in Ghouri & Co, an auditing firm, most fresh ICAP graduates receive multiple job offers upon graduation. “I’m still getting job offers, and they’re all in six digits.”

Although industry sources say ICAP graduates still grab the highest salaries when it comes to accounts, auditing and finance jobs, their monopoly seems to have been dented recently by a strong presence of the UK-based Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in Pakistan.

According to Rehan Uddin, who heads ACCA in Karachi, global recognition and acceptability make its members different from graduates of other institutes of accountancy. “ACCA has been around (internationally) for over 100 years,” he said, adding its members possessed skills, which were relevant both locally and globally.

ACCA affiliate Murtaza Naqvi, who works for one of the largest auditing firms of Pakistan, says fresh ACCA members receive on average Rs50,000 a month after certification. “It can go up to Rs80,000 a month in some cases,” he added.

Where do they end up?

The ICAP president says almost all chartered accountants end up working for companies with over Rs1 billion in annual turnover. “Only big companies can afford to hire a CA,” he said, adding ICAP graduates preferred to work for multinational companies, the financial sector and manufacturing sector in the same order.

Although about 20% of ICAP members have traditionally been working in auditing firms, Mir says the number has decreased recently. “Stringent regulations” discourage fresh ICAP graduates from entering public practice, he said.

Ghouri believes just about 5-10% of fresh ICAP graduates join public practice these days. “They’re mostly those people who’ve family-run, established auditing firms. It’s tough because one has to start from zero all over again.”

According to industry sources, about a third of ICAP graduates leave every year for foreign countries, particularly the Middle East. In case of ACCA members, they said more part-qualified people had moved out of the country than full-fledged members in recent years. That is because ACCA enjoys a strong reputation as a global body of accounting professionals, especially in Europe, the sources added.

Pass rates

It is common to hear students complain ICAP maintains its ‘hegemony’ by consciously controlling the pass rate, thus ensuring the job market does not get overcrowded. “It’s a wrong perception that we pass one out of every 100 students. Last year, our pass rate was 16%,” Mir said.

Similarly, Rehan Uddin rejected the allegation that ACCA practised a lenient admission policy and a strict examination policy. He said pass rates for the most recent June 2011 ACCA exams for the professional level were 30% to 52%.

International recognition

According to Fuad Zakaria, who graduated from ICAP last year and now works at Chase Up, a chain of department stores, ICAP needs to strengthen ties with international professional bodies like the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

“ICAP should ensure its members get exemptions and equivalence globally. It follows high professional standards. But it needs to document and streamline its departmental structures and guidelines to become a truly international body,” Zakaria said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2012.

Reader Comments (14)

  • Moise
    Feb 4, 2012 - 5:54AM

    Managing two accounting books is tough so the high salary is justified.Recommend

  • saleem
    Feb 4, 2012 - 3:44PM

    A Pakistani Chartered Accountant can compete with best in the world.

    Recommend

  • Nasir
    Feb 4, 2012 - 8:54PM

    Just a monopoly these have created. Audit firms infiltrate their guys into organizations, encourage all wrong doings thus the kids keeps his job and the firm keep the audit after few years the game switch to another firm.

    All big corporations keep CA’s to accounting only. They hire MBA’s to run their organizations strategically and one of the reasons the CA’s hate MBA’s.

    Pakistani CA’s are nothing but bean counters and tickers who spend their whole life ticking journals, vouchers and think this is all finance. Recommend

  • Saad
    Feb 5, 2012 - 4:01PM

    @Nasir, I guess your imaginations have gone a bit farther than the actual reality. You called the Pakistani CA’s as “Bean counters” where as we represent one of the most highly qualified professionals in the world. Almost every firm (I’m talking about the big four) is providing consultancy services, Tax advisory, Risk management services, Fraud investigation services and the legendary auditing services; Can you please specify the line of service where we act as “Bean counters”?.

    I am not saying that MBA’s don’t play any role in an organization, but it was wrong of you to encroach upon us with these false allegations. Every designation has a role to play and believe me, we, the chartered accountants, play a far better than MBA’s. To consider the reality, lets not compare the “pathetic” MBA of Pakistan with CA, it would provide a better match to an “Indian MBA”. Have you ever seen their advertisements? that is what the true marketing or even administration represents. This fact is countered by the other side of the coin that graduates of ICAI doesn’t hold a chance against those of ICAP. If you have any doubts, please make a survey of middle east market and you’ll find the above statement right.

    Furthermore, being a part of a highest-ranked firm in Pakistan, I would counter your statement that the firms infiltrate their candidates to keep their business running; well this may be right in some cases but the entity which I represent, never impairs their independence by such activities. Moreover, your statement doesn’t corroborates the point you are making, even if they do it, there is some thing in those candidates that enables them to perform their activities.

    In a nut shell, it was a wrong move to make. If you MBAs want some respect, than you will have to earn it rather than to spoil of those who have already earned theirs.

    Cheers!

    Recommend

  • Faiz
    Feb 5, 2012 - 8:07PM

    @ Nasir:

    Seems like the other way around – that MBA’s hate CA’s. :)

    We don’t have time to hate anyone..

    Recommend

  • Arsalan
    Feb 5, 2012 - 11:30PM

    @ Nasir… My Goodness Nasir, you have been living in fool’s paradise dear ! First of all, i wish to make some valuable addition to your knowledge. Present Pakistani CAs are no more “stuck in a groove” because ICAP has included everything in the syllabus to prepare them for anything uncertain, challenging and anything that put their abilities to real test.Now CAs have realized their potential and they know they are capable of becoming everything they aspire to . You say we hate MBAs but brother i want to inform you that i have 3 friends doing MBA from a very renowned university. they are accustomed to getting my help in financial accounting after their classes everyday. I sometimes also teach them management.

    They always used to tell me that chartered accountants lacked communication and interpersonal skills and that was where they beat them but after analyzing how ICAP has turned their students into managers-cum-accountants , they are really convinced that CAs are now also good at managing business.

    I just want to inform you that we don’t hate MBAs, in fact it’s always a good experience to have you there. ICAP has just adapt its students to tackle cut-throat competition. Now if we take edge over you at this, you should compete by becoming better than those against whom you compete.

    Recommend

  • Faham Saleem Asghar
    Feb 5, 2012 - 11:45PM

    yayyyyyy, 4 papers to ACCA membership and 2 papers to ICAEW membership! will be both, ACCA and CA :D

    Recommend

  • Hassan
    Feb 6, 2012 - 12:52AM

    I’m presently working for one of the Big 4 companies in Dubai. There are large numbers of ICAPs here and I have to say that beyond technical knowledge in some core areas – these guys are highly incompetent. Most of them have very poor personalities which makes them unpresentablle for big companies. They usually don’t have any soft skills – such as presentation, team work or even typing a proper email. This is majorly because these guys start ICAP right after high school, unlike in the west where you start your ICAEW or ACCA after finishing your bachelors where you learn a lot more and get time to groom yourself.

    Recommend

  • Saad
    Feb 6, 2012 - 3:15PM

    @Hassan, Can you please specify “the big four” you are working in? By stating the inabilities of your fellow workers you are arguing the fact that your employer has turned out to be a wrong recruiter? And that it should be you, instead, to guide the recruitment process?

    The professional bodies, which you are referring to, called upon the help of Pakistani professionals two years back. The motive behind such call was to help the major countries in shifting their accounting systems from their respective GAAPs to IFRS.

    I really don’t know that from which world are you stating such comments. Our biggest flaw comes with the fact that we generalize the faults of one over the whole population. We, the Pakistani Chartered Accountants, have presented in many international seminars and we account for the best presentation skills in our area of expertise. For last many years, we had a professional course known as PSTC which enhances the individuals ability in the said field. Sadly, it has been excluded from the professional course recently but even now I get the notifications of various professional seminars being conducted in the three major cities.

    I would really urge you all to stop pointing at the very professional core of Pakistan. If you can’t be among them then don’t despise them. I am happy for you that you are in big fours but you should learn to pay some respects to your professional brothers. If you don’t have it then come and join the PwC network. We have a good reputation in teaching courtesy and professionalism.

    Regards
    Saad

    Recommend

  • u kahloun
    Feb 7, 2012 - 10:12PM

    @Saad.Rightly said.There is no doubt about the competence of ICAP graduates. The guys you are arguing with really don’t have the guts to prove anything convincing. We don’t down play any profession; neither do we want others to down play ours. Being a CA finalist and presently working in one of the “Big Four”, I am totally aware of what it takes to be in the Big Four.
    But wait!!! One thing I really cant digest. Referring to your second last line “If you don’t have it then come and join the PwC network”, it seems you a bit sound uppity. Is that your self confidence or you think you, just because you are in AFF, PWC network firm, can say so? I don’t think Its called “Professionalism”.

    Recommend

  • Saad
    Feb 8, 2012 - 10:31PM

    @u kahloun.. Thanks for your support. As far as the contradiction is concerned, I would simply say that, we, the professionals of PwC network, never let down our competency levels. Our working environment ensures that we never let down our guards and never encroach upon personal territories of any “individual”. It’s okay to criticize the professional body as a whole but not to point out some individuals just because they didn’t make you a good presentation (not to forget the fact that they are being employed at the same levels as you are). That’s all I meant by the term “professionalism” in reference to PwC network and it’s nothing related to self confidence neither I’ll let you to take this argumentation into a new, meaningless and ruthless dimension. It’s better to dump that thought right here my dear.

    I would wind up the argumentation with this single line: All of us have chosen the fields according to our calibers; if you are not a Pakistani Chartered Accountant then better not raise a finger upon our race unless you want to sit back and despise the high-earners.

    Regards
    Saad

    Recommend

  • Sonia
    Feb 10, 2012 - 5:39PM

    @Hassan:
    I agree with the last part that going for a certification after bachelors and before it- alters one’s personality and perception of themselves and others, a lot. No doubt the people certifying from ICAP are no less than proper degree holders and have ample knowledge and better knowledge than most professionals. But the psychological impacts cannot be ignored!!!!!

    We cannot be just professional on the face on and not act like one!

    Recommend

  • Hassan
    Feb 10, 2012 - 10:23PM

    @Saad:
    Obviously my comment did not apply to all ICAP members – but for a vast majority of them. From what I have heard and for your information, pwc UAE sacked 30 employees last June and most of them were ICAP members. There is always room for improvement even if you consider yourself the ‘best.’ – you do not have to take it personally.

    Recommend

  • Humayun
    Mar 10, 2012 - 2:48PM

    I would like to see CAs moving from back office role to the front office. Book keeping, any accountant can do, and if you have properly implemented ERP, that would be bonus.

    Recommend

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