The Malta Independent 24 September 2021, Friday

Opinion: Choosing accountancy

Ivan Grixti Monday, 13 September 2021, 09:58 Last update: about 11 days ago

A few days ago, the Malta Institute of Accountants in conjunction with the Education Ministry launched an awareness campaign targeted at students undergoing secondary education.

The intention is not only to attract new talent towards the profession, but also, as far as possible, the right talent. Needless to say the revelations of recent years have surely exacerbated the bad light our profession has had to endure.

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At the same time the reality of the job market is what it is. As eloquently described by the current President, Fabio Axisa, during the respective press conference, currently the number of newly qualified accountants are on average amounting to 200 per year, split evenly between those who take the University route – an academic qualification and ACCA – an internationally recognised professional qualification. This is in stark contrast to the yearly requirements of the market which, according to the latest statistics, amount to roughly 600 per year. The direct consequence of this has been the need to import talent from abroad, in particular qualified accountants from the Philippines as well as India. As Covid-19 kicked in, one can imagine what arduous administrative input ensued for local accounting firms. 

Relating to recent academic research carried out with past students of mine, it became evident that the decision to introduce Business Studies as a distinct subject to be taught within secondary schools has had its consequential effects on the above mentioned job market situation. Although, that decision had been reverted some years ago, the fallout of that unwarranted decision is still being felt. In essence, less students have taken accountancy as a possible future working career.

It is also noteworthy to point out that in recent years our educational framework has driven students to take up sciences, so as to pursue the professional paths of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and health sciences. In some situations, it could sometimes be the influence of one or both parents in choosing a career path. That happened in my case. I have to admit that my dad influenced my decision of taking up accounting at secondary level, at a time when accounting had just been elevated to being studied at a tertiary level alongside the traditional professions of law and medicine. Furthermore, that choice came about at a time when our beloved Malta was undergoing a significant economic transformation – doing away with reliance on the presence of foreign military forces and giving birth to more sustainable economic drivers such as tourism and manufacturing.

Malta’s economic transformation continued unabated in the early 1990s when the previous Nationalist administration dreamt of establishing Malta as a hub for financial services – a notion which the Labour Party had fully supported.

As business processes develop and new financial transactions come into existence, then it stands to reason that the need to have the necessary complement of professionals to account and report the end result of those transactions is highly evident. Apart from local stakeholders – such as tax authorities and commercial bankers – that are after the consumption of that information – today’s complex financial services sector brought about the increased necessity of compliance reporting.

So gone are the days of becoming an accountant to fulfil the role of a bean counter. The profession has diversified tremendously into an advisorial as well as a compliance role, not to mention the impact of current technological changes such as Big Data and Blockchain.

I chose to pursue accountancy at our Alma Mater without having any regrets. Today, I have the responsibility of breeding tomorrow’s accountants and although academia is not as rewarding as staying in the profession, it is also necessary to ensure continuity in this aspect too. So, whilst auguring success to my Institute in this endeavour, I will surely recommend to any young male or female to pursue accountancy – rewarding opportunities are there for grabs…the choice is yours!!! 

Dr.Ivan Grixti is a senior lecturer in Financial Accounting at the University of Malta

 

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