War for talent and technological changes tops the challenges faced by accountants in Asia Pacific

Published date: July 31, 2019

Asia Pacific is a region of contrasts, and its accountancy profession is no different. The challenges facing the profession in the region today, where 5 of the world’s top 10 economies reside1, and especially in Asia the fastest growing element, need to be identified and should not be taken lightly.

The Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA) took a look at identifying these challenges during an interactive session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in May 2019. The session gathered insights from leaders and representatives from CAPA members, whose professional accountancy organisations represent close to 2 million accountants in the world.

The feedback from the 36 leaders and representatives, from 26 organisations across 18 jurisdictions representing not only the more developed nations but also the emerging economies, together with findings from other research, provided a sharp perspective of the challenges faced across the region.

Leaders and representatives of CAPA member organisations prioritise what they consider as the top five challenges facing the profession in Asia Pacific

Key Findings

While some of the challenges identified are not new, what is new is the environment in which these challenges exist. It was also noted that there were some clear challenges that impacted certain sub-regions or impacted jurisdictions based on their stage of economic development.

Four key themes arose from fifteen (15) top challenges identified, namely: Complexity and Markets – the macro issues, and People and Reputation – the issues for the profession to directly address.

The issues identified relating to the increased Complexity of the environment in which the profession operates included the impact of rapid technological changes and the need to keep abreast of regulatory requirements. Current Markets on the other hand require the profession to possess the necessary agility to adapt to rapidly growing economies especially in Asia, as well as the rise of non-traditional emerging industries – all against a backdrop of changing client needs and demand for greater transparency and accountability.

People issues include the expectation of different or ‘novel’ roles, responsibilities and skills, and the scarcity of good talent. Not surprisingly, given the ongoing occurrence of some major corporate collapses, scandals, and the apparent failure to identify or report accounting anomalies, the Reputation of the profession remains under the spotlight.

A few key findings stand out.

  • A majority of the participants identified the top three (3) challenges facing the profession in Asia Pacific as: war for talent; the changing role of the accountant in light of advances in technology; and ensuring recognition of the value of the accountancy profession. The war for talent or the issue of attracting and retaining talent was a challenge faced by both developed and developing economies across the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Almost 90% of participants who highlighted the (low) recognition of the value of the profession as an issue, came from Asia. This is perhaps a reflection of the younger history of the profession in the jurisdictions represented.
  • The impact of climate change on reporting, and gender diversity at leadership and governance levels, were areas of concern for the profession in developed economies.
  • The participants who cited the lack of a regulatory framework for technological changes in the profession as a challenge, all hailed from Asia.
  • Not surprisingly, where English is not the native or a fluently spoken language, and where existing cultures were not predominantly anglo-saxon in origin, the implementation of international standards (which are in English!) was cited as a challenge.
  • The changing business and regulatory environment resulting in changing roles for the accountants, and the need to embrace new skills or specialisations, were areas of concern across the region.
  • The ability of the profession to adopt and keep up with rapid technological advances was also a fear across the board.
  • Keeping up with regulatory requirements appears to be a challenge predominantly facing Asia and developing nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

The exercise, which merely creates an inventory of key and possible challenges facing the profession in the region, is only a piece of the larger picture. The need for the many stakeholders in the profession, whether in Asia Pacific or globally, to work together to address these areas and harness the opportunities presented by the changing market conditions, is apparent and required.

Note: This article has been summarised from the original article titled ‘Challenges facing the profession in Asia Pacific’. Click here to access the original article.



1International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Economic Outlook Database, April 2018