ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, which aims to offer business-relevant qualifications to people who want to seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. The body supports its members and students throughout their careers, providing services through a network of 83 offices and active centres around the world. Realising the important roles accountants play in private and public sectors, the body emphasises their role as advocates of sound business practices, champions of sustainable business development and identifiers of value drivers which lead to high-performing organisations. ACCA also focuses on professional values, ethics, and governance and deliver value-added services through 57 global accountancy partnerships, working closely with multinational and small entities to promote global standards and support. The body also uses its expertise and experience to work with governments, donor agencies and professional bodies such as the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) to develop the global accountancy profession and to advance the public interest.

Haroon Ahmad Jan, the head of Lahore region (from Rahim Yar Khan to Jhelum), explains how this body is working in Pakistan and assisting its stakeholders – students, ACCA members, employers, universities and other all the institutions related to ACCA education – and what are the steps he has taken in the region to make this body more helpful. It is pertinent to mention that ACCA in Pakistan is the second largest market outside the UK.

Talking about the services being provided to students and professionals, he said he has a team of professionals working with him. “My marketing team remains in contact with students especially the high achievers and helps them in securing good jobs. We are about to celebrate the high achievers ceremony. About seventeen students from this region have secured good positions and two of them have secured global positions, which mean they have competed with almost 424,000 students in the world and the rest have secured nationwide positions. We will celebrate their achievements.

“Similarly I have a business development manager which looks after employers’ relationships. So when it is about the employment of these individuals, who have passed out and completed their education, my business development manager goes out and employment engagements take place.

“The third element is that our relationship manager for learning providers. All the institutions that are offering tuition for ACCA like SKANS, PAC, CFE, CAPS in approved institutions and the others in the market which offer learner providers simply, the business manager for learning provider engage with them and make sure different aspects like their teaching quality, related facilities, health and safety environment at their campuses, all should be up to the mark. In short there is a strict criterion that these organisations have to meet every year in order to remain approved,” he explained.

Mr Haroon is also putting his efforts to spread this international level of qualification so that maximum students from Pakistan could get benefit from it. For that he has signed MoUs with many government and private universities. “Recently, we have also started working with major universities across this region and its major objective is to teach the broader based skills to maximum students related to finance education. ACCA is a qualification which has international footprints. The skills that ACCA teaches to its students are applicable internationally. And they are broad based skills that are applicable in the core finance function. For example if there are organisations which wanted to do their sales forecasting. This is not a core finance function but this requires a high level of analytical skills which ACCA imparts to its students and therefore they are able to fit in this role as well. So a broad based qualification ACCA is therefore very relevant to the business currently. So I worked with many universities who are giving B.Com, M.Com qualifications and we are trying to align these qualifications with ACCA, which is an international education. We advise these universities to align these qualifications with ACCA so that their students can benefit the broader based elements rather than having the skills of a particular type applicable only to finance core function. In this way they can also get exemption in ACCA.

“For that ACCA have signed MoUs with many universities in the region like Bahauddin Zakariya University, International University of Bahawalpur, Punjab University particularly the Hailey College of Commerce. There are also some public sector universities and some reputable private institution in the pipeline through which we can add value to this finance education, he briefed.

Casting light on the important role that qualified accountants play in any organisation he said, “Finance function is changing very rapidly and becoming a very broad based diverse function. It finds its applications in activities like production, marketing and sales, in fact in all other parts of the business. For example accountants have a vital function in production. They help the company in making every product cost efficient and giving the maximum profit margin. Through internal controls and different measures they are able to bring cost efficiency. Similarly in the marketing and sales function, through their market knowledge and experience they are able to tell the best market price of the product. Similarly, accountants have the knowledge of overall business and its performance as well. They can advise how to gain maximum in high period and also in low growth period they are able to advise how to neutralise the risk factor. It is how accounting and finance function is evolving. In order to perform all these rolls the modern accountants have to broader skilled based qualification.

“In a research conducted by ACCA by 500 CFOs of different companies in the different part of the world, 80 percent of them said that they would want the new professionals to have broad based finance and accounting skill set. This is how the function is changing. Now the qualification like ACCA has ten competency areas which would address all these roles which I talked about. It will build all these abilities in those individuals who are undertaking this qualification. This qualification has been designed keeping in mind the businesses requirement and the employment sector, he maintained.

Mentioning about the scholarships and the help which ACCA is providing to deserving students he said that almost Rs 3 million was given to the deserving students in form of scholarship in MoUs which ACCA signed with different universities. Besides, he said, “there is Simpson Scholarship to reward talented students across the globe and for the last many years one or two scholarships are obtained by Pakistani students.

This is meritorious scholarship but Pakistani students are so talented that they get this scholarship by competing internationally.”  He also said that his body ask to learner provider institution to keep their tuition fee at affordable level and there are examples that these institution wave off up to 70 percent tuition fee if any outstanding student deserves.

Lastly he talked about the female accountants and said that their number in Pakistan is very low. “There is gender imbalance in the field of accountancy and ACCA is making efforts to encourage the female students to come to this profession. “In Singapore there are more than 50 percent female accountants whereas in Pakistan the ratio is only 12 percent. This is a profession in which female could easily adjust and there is also demand for female accountants in the market,” he said. He was optimist that in near future there would be increase in female accountants.