The Accounting & Finance Show SA 2019 at Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg kicked off yesterday, providing a window into the future of the profession. There was good and bad news for the accounting profession.
The message from speakers was clear: traditional accounting is an endangered profession as artificial intelligence and software solutions take over the administrative functions of record keeping. The good news is that accountants with the right skills will be in greater demand than ever.
The future of the accounting profession lies in specialisation, said Nicolaas van Wyk, CEO of the SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba).
“Accounting officers are a dying breed, and that started when the close corporation was legislated out of existence (with the new Companies Act),” he told delegates at the Convention Centre. “We, as business accountants, have to be able to offer more than mandatory services that will soon be done by computers.”
Accountants in professional practice will need to add more skills to their arsenal, which is why Saiba has launched more than a dozen specialised licenses catering to the rapidly changing needs of the market.
The audit profession will remain solidly in the hands of chartered accountants, but professional accountants are needed more than ever to provide assurance in areas such as school spending, non-profit organisations, cybersecurity, foreign investments, and trusts and estates.
Business rescue is another area where professional accountants will be needed in the future, given the number of high profile companies (Basil Read, Group Five and Optimum Coal being among some of the more prominent ones) seeking legal protection from creditors.
Some professional accountants were providing audit functions to clients, particularly where the client needs an audit as part of a tender pre-qualification, or for the sale of the business, but van Wyk warned against this. “The audit function is regulated and I would urge those of you who are not registered auditors to stop performing audits if you are doing this. However, where I do see a role for professional accountants to grab a portion of that business by offering audit support services, and setting up the working papers. Why should all of that audit budget go to the registered auditors when we as professional accountants are able to do most of the preparatory work. We need to start taking market share away from the audit profession.”
There is likewise a desperate need among the more than 26,000 schools in South Africa for the kind of assurance provided by business accountants. “Schools are getting funding from the government, but much of this money is either not being spent or is being improperly spent.”
Saiba now offers a license, backed by rigorous training and ongoing Continuous Professional Development (CPD) to prepare business accountants to take over this market.
Van Wyk emphasised that the professional designations offered by Saiba are international in reach, allowing accountants to work across borders (provided they familiarize themselves with local laws and regulations). This was particularly well received by the many African accounting delegates in attendance. Saiba will also assist members with professional designations, particularly those from other African countries, to obtain the appropriate visas to work in SA.
One of the reasons for advancing a range of new specialised licenses was to lobby the government for reform. For example, only advocates, attorneys and auditors are currently allowed to be appointed to manage estates and trusts. “We will be offering a one year course on this, so we will be able to go to the Department of Justice and lobby for our members licensed to provide this service to be given appointments.”
These are the specialist licenses currently (or imminently) obtainable through Saiba/Sait (South African Institute of Tax Professionals). You must be a Business Accountant in Practice, or BAP, as a minimum in order specialise in these fields. The BAP is a designation offered by Saiba.
Other designations available are the Certified Business Accountant, or CPA, of Chief Financial Officer (CFO):
- Independent reviewer (which gives you the designation Business Accountant in Practice, or BAP)
- Business rescue practitioner (Designation: BAP)
- Foreign investments accounts (Designation: BAP)
- Accounting officer for schools (Designation: BAP)
- Accounting officer for Non-Profit Organisations (Designation: BAP)
- Cyber-security assurance provider (Designation: BAP/CPA)
- Executor and Estate Planner (Designation: BAP/CPA)
- Business Advisor and Financial Planner (Designation: BAP/CPA)
- IFRS Specialist (Designation: BAP/CPA)
- Audit Support Provider (Designation: BAP/CPA)
- Accountant for Religious Organisations (BAP)
- Accountant for Farmers (BAP)
- IFRS and Cost Management (CBA)
- Strategy, Governance, Operations (CFO)
None of Saiba/Sait’s competitors offer this.
In addition, you have access to Continuous Professional Development (which you must do as a practicing accountant) through Saiba’s association with SA Accounting Academy.
International representation and reciprocal agreements
Saiba and Sait are affiliated with 12 local and international bodies, more than any other accounting body in SA. And it will keep you up-to-date on the latest trends and requirements of its local and international sister bodies. This allows members to work around the world and have their designation recognised abroad.