The SEED Show With Asmita Thapa and Rabin Katwal | ACCA Stories from Mr Rabin Katwal, ACCA Head Nepal
The following quality discussions were made in the first episode of Seed Show where the host Ms. Asmita Thapa who is also an ACCA student at Seed Financial Academy put some questions on several dynamics of ACCA qualification with our respected guest Mr. Rabin Katwal who is currently leading the role of Head-ACCA for Nepal.
Link for the full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXAa6wqGWWk
1. What is ACCA qualification for a layman who does not know anything about ACCA?
From the perspective of layman there are three things to consider. First of all, ACCA is a professional qualification especially for those who wants to pursue career in accountancy, finance and audit profession in which you need to complete examinations as well meet certain practical experience requirements. ACCA is an international qualification that currently has around 206,000 members, 500,000 students, global presence in 179 countries, 100 office centres, 500 exam centres. In a nutshell, ACCA is a professional qualification, accounting and finance related qualification and an international qualification.
2. There are many mainstream courses in the market such as BBS, BBA etc then why ACCA, why not other?
I think gone are the days we talk about product like why Samsung, why I phone, why ACCA, why BBA etc., we talk about stories. So a better question would be, “ What is ACCA story?” Different individual, human beings have different sensibilities, different interests, different perceptions different inclinations. That is why every story may not appeal/attract them and ACCA story should not necessarily attract them. So, according to their sensibility and interest, they may go with different choices and we need to respect them. So, it would be wrong to say that ACCA is the best thing for them.
Talking about ACCA values,
ACCA is a Flexible Qualification
By flexible qualification, I mean you can choose the number of papers you want to opt for examinations, you can sit for examinations 4 times in a year, you can balance exams and your experience. In the current world which is fast moving, fast paced, where individuals are working, ACCA could be a best fit choice.
Diversity and Opportunity
ACCA presence is not limited to certain countries only since it has a global presence in many countries throughout the world. So people from different backgrounds are studying ACCA. Therefore, Diversity and Opportunity for All is a part of the ACCA values and ACCA story.
International Recognition and Global Mobility
Everyone would agree that the current world is a globalized world and whatever skills we gain/are gaining/supposed to gain should be globally relevant and provided that we are able, there should be opportunities across the globe for us to be mobile. So this is how ACCA as a qualification provides international recognition and helps us to be globally mobile.
So, I think these ACCA values should appeal to everybody. The current world is very Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous(VUCA) and we need to put a hard question onto ourselves whether the qualification we are pursuing given the investment in time, effort and resources would be adequate enough to survive/thrive in the current world and if it does not then we should be questioning ourselves.
3. Why ACCA introduced Ethics and Professional skills module as a part of curriculum?
Ethics is an important topic in the current world and there should be rigorous discussion around ethics. ACCA student and ACCA members should have a deep understanding and they should be able to demonstrate ethical skills. Apart from Ethics, they should also be able to understand professional skills such as leadership skills, motivational skills, communication skills, decision making skills etc and reflect their competency. So, whether the skillsets that we learn throughout a journey of pursuing qualification help us to stay relevant or not is also a part of ACCA story.
4. What is the difference between ACCA and CA?
ACCA, CA or CPA, they all are professional accountants. As we say Pepsi, Fanta, Sprite they all are cold drinks. The essential subject matter is the same in these qualification such as law, tax, accounts, finance, business analysis, audit and assurance, corporate governance etc. So whether you study CA or ACCA or CPA, essentially you are studying the same thing. When talking about CA, it could be from different countries such as India(ICAI), Nepal(ICAN) or other countries, essentially similar skills are being tried to develop but, difference arises in terms of rights and privileges permitted in a particular jurisdiction. ACCA is a UK based professional accountancy qualification and Financial Reporting Council is the regulatory authority in UK. Institute of Chartered Accountant of England and Wales (ICAEW), Institute of Chartered Accountant of Scotland, Institute of Chartered Accountant of Ireland along with ACCA are Recognised Supervisory Bodies and members of these bodies have audit practice rights in UK however in case of Nepal where Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nepal(ICAN) is the regulatory body, members of other professional accountant bodies are to obtain certification of practice from ICAN to exercise audit practice rights. Under the mutual collaboration agreement with ICAN entered into recently, there is a pathway for ACCA members to obtain certificate of practice. Other than that, difference could be in terms of examination patterns, number of exam papers, local accounting standards, local law and regulations and local tax etc. So, statutory recognition and technicalities could be some of the major differences between ACCA and CA.
5. Many people don’t dare to pursue CA citing the reason that there is a group system in examination technicalities where if a student fails in one of the papers in the group he/she has to attempt the entire papers again. Does the same applies to ACCA qualification?
As far as I remember there was group system in the final level of ACCA back in 2006, however ACCA has eliminated group system as of date which means student can sit for only 1 exam paper and once passed it is permanent. The rationale behind that was there should be opportunity in a sense that if someone already has reasonable knowledge in a particular subject matter, requiring them to reappear for the examination means to deprive them of other opportunities which was against what ACCA values were and that is why ACCA subsequently eliminated the group system and once again group system no longer exists in ACCA.
6. Getting along with the topic, how many papers are there is ACCA and how is the course structure?
In ACCA there are there levels namely Applied Knowledge, Applied Skills and Strategic Professional. Applied Knowledge consists of 3 papers, Applied Skills of 6 papers and Strategic professional of 2 compulsory papers and 2 optional papers (2 out of 4 papers) so essentially there are 13 papers to appear for in the examinations. There are 4 examination sessions in a year for March, June, September and December. To be an ACCA member, we call it 3 E’s which comprises of Ethics, Examination and Experience component. On part of experience, there is a requirement of 36 months relevant practical experience which could be before, during or after also resembling flexibility in ACCA qualification.
7. Who can join ACCA?
In this case as well I would like to highlight some part of ACCA stories which is Opportunity. Long back in Europe and America, when there were discussions around women to have voting rights, even before that discussion regarding women also can be professional accountants and they should be provided the opportunity to become professional accountants and should have voting rights as a member of professional body was already there in ACCA and the practice was already introduced. So keeping in mind opportunity, anyone who thinks he/she can study and become a professional accountant can join ACCA and there are no entry barriers. However, having said that what I have to admit is definitely students from management backgrounds may find it relatively easy. In case of Nepal, students after completing 10+2 in any disciplines, BBS/BBA/MBS/MBA and also professional accountants from other bodies are joining ACCA.
8. When I started pursuing ACCA, many people did not know what ACCA is and I had to introduce the ACCA qualification to others as CA from UK and people used to ask which country you want to move after completing ACCA and what do you think the answer to that should be?
First of all, the most important thing is we need to understand that skills is a universal thing. So the skills that you are acquiring as an ACCA student or other professional qualifications the relevant of those skills is not limited to geographical boundaries and we need to be crystal clear about this. Any skills we acquire if that is restricted to a particular geographic boundary then we should really reconsider our decision to pursue that particular qualification. I also hear these things that students willing to move abroad after completing ACCA and that is fine however, the skills we gain from ACCA qualification is as much relevant in Nepal as well. Nepal is at a very critical juncture and is at a very interesting phase in its history. Federalism has been implemented in Nepal, government is also trying to do things having impact on industrial growth, economic growth and these have become a matter of public discussion. Now comes the need for manpower and that is primarily to be addressed by we as Nepali citizens. So as a Nepali citizen we as a professional accountant should also think about contributing to the national economy other than thinking about working abroad. In Nepal there are around 350 ACCA members working in banking sector, insurance sector, public sector and non-governmental sectors etc. so there are whole lot of areas where ACCA as a professional accountant in Nepal can contribute.
9. What would be the right time to start fulfilling your practical experience requirement (PER)?
It is said that there is never a wrong time to do right things but a sensible decision is to be made in the sense that when you are going to work for the employer they need to feel that you are adding some value and it is not required to teach you everything. If the employer need to teach you the basics, invest more time and effort you as an employee may not be suitable from the perspective of the employer. So having said that, it would be a right decision to start fulfilling your PER after completing Applied skills level of ACCA or at least 3 paper of Applied Skills inclusive of Financial Reporting & Audit and Assurance paper. As an ACCA student studying in Nepal, you need to know that currently there is no Tax and Law variant for Nepal which in some way requires you to study local law and local tax rules and regulations. It is pleasing that some learning providers have been taking initiatives to bridge the knowledge gap. It is a part of story of that college what they are offering. Even when college is not offering, as a professional accountant it is your responsibility to get yourself familiar with Nepalese law and Nepalese tax areas while working for some employer. To sum up, after completing entire Applied skills level or at least 3 papers of ACCA as mentioned already with the knowledge of Nepalese tax and Nepalese law would be the right time to seek for an employer to fulfill your PER.
10. Is it necessary for an ACCA student to pursue academic courses such as BBS along with ACCA which is a professional course?
Personally I think and I feel that an ACCA student should study BBS along with ACCA course. In south Asia now there is a trend to pursue professional accountancy courses like ACCA after completing 10+2. But earlier, people used to join professional accountancy courses after completing Bachelor’s degree. What we need to understand is every qualification or degree has its own merit. Academic qualification is a research oriented degree where we need to pass examinations and to submit research report (thesis) on a particular topic. Compared to professional qualification where we study core things, more technical aspects, more in-depth learning backed up by practical experience requirement academic qualification helps us to develop research skills. Professional qualification and academic course are not mutually exclusive and pursuing both would definitely provide some extra mileage. So, I personally recommend to pursue professional qualification along with academic qualification which I also did at my time and think is the best course of action for all ACCA students.
11. Is it true that student can go for BSc Hons in Applied Accounting degree from Oxford Brooked University by submitting a research report after completing Applied skills level of ACCA and also students presume that there is no need to complete BBS if they can go for BSc. Hons in Applied Accounting?
I think ACCA considering the need to develop academic skills by entering into partnership with Oxford Brookes University provides the pathway for ACCA students to earn an academic degree as well. The requirement is to submit Research and Analysis project and Skills and Learning Statement to Oxford Brookes University. Also an ACCA student can earn MSc in Professional Accountancy degree after completing certain requirements and ACCA provides pathway for the same as well. Let’s not dwell into more detail. Coming to your question, although I said earlier that the current world is globalized world still there are some boundaries, some limitations that separates us. Every country has its offering, regulator, laws and regulations and we need to respect that. In Nepal, Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) provides academic equivalency for degrees/qualifications from other universities/professional accountancy bodies and currently CDC does not provide equivalency for BSc Hons degree in Applied Accounting from Oxford Brookes University. So when are studying in Nepal, looking forward to work in Nepal, BBS could be a suitable option as long as the regulatory environment is not favourable towards ACCA and BSc Hons. Also I would like to mention that we are having engagements regarding equivalency with CDC, Office of Dean of Management, Vice Chancellor, British Council, and British Embassy
12. I think we have discussed a lot about ACCA and now it’s the time to hear about your ACCA journey and about ACCA Head for Nepal as well.
I was a 10+2 science student and I never had the ambition and aspiration to become a professional accountant. I neither had the aspiration to become doctor or engineer to be very honest. I was very much into research and new developments that were coming in science as we usually talk about theory of relativity, quantum physics. I had the aspiration to complete PhD. (Doctorate) and to formulate a theory as I was very inspired with Albert Einstein, Newton, Fin Mann since childhood and I was totally obsessed with that. I came Kathmandu after 10+2 and got admission in BSc at Trichandra College. I don’t mean to complain about the education system but that was the hard reality of the situation, it was a reality shock for me to feel that studying is for passing exams only and there is no favourable environment for research and I was kind of frustrated since I had around 2-2.5 years of loss. Then I moved for pursuing Chartered Accountancy qualification and after 3-4 months, I felt dissatisfied since it was a matter of individual sensibility for me I felt caged and I thought of giving it up. When I started exploring, I came to know about ACCA as a qualification and the course structure, questions appearing in examination, flexibility with respect to exam sitting and the support ACCA was providing really impressed me and I thought about pursuing ACCA qualification. Eventually I became an ACCA member, I worked with different organisations, worked as a freelancer, worked as an entrepreneur, worked as an ACCA tutor. Before role of ACCA Head for Nepal happened to me, I was in process of applying for PR in Australia or Canada. When this role happened to me I felt like I had been doing this role of talking about ACCA, motivating others about ACCA for a long portion of my career and this role provided flexibility to me the way I am as an individual. So ultimately I took up the role of ACCA Head for Nepal.
13. Still there is a misconception that CA from ICAN or ICAI is superior to ACCA which is not true but we cannot help it. What do you think are the problems for ACCA and ACCA students in Nepal?
On the context “Superior but not true” I remember a quote from Osho that “Nobody is superior, nobody is inferior but Nobody is equal either”. Everyone is unique, everybody have something unique which they bring to the table. It is not that ACCA is superior to ICAN or ICAI, ICAN or ICAI also has something very unique and something very useful which they bring to the table that ACCA cannot bring and ACCA also has something very unique to itself which other bodies do not bring. Before addressing your question about the problems faced by ACCA and ACCA students in Nepal, I would like to go back to the uniqueness I mentioned but did not elaborated earlier which I would wish to. Let’s tie this to story, what story that an individual carries and which story appeal to that individual. If someone has a passion for audit practice in Nepal, without a doubt I would suggest that person to go for ICAN. It is not that you cannot obtain certificate of practice in Nepal after pursuing ACCA as there is a pathway for that which would be an additional journey. Unlike that, ACCA member can enjoy audit practice rights in several countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc. through mutual partnerships of ACCA with different bodies after fulfilling certain conditions. There are other global bodies as well like CIMA, CFA but in the current context on the basis of facts the global presence and the global network ACCA has is not rivalled by any other bodies. Also ACCA stands apart in terms of course dynamics, computer based examinations, future skills, research capacity, relevant skills, ethics and professional skills module, strategic business leader. So, it is up to the students what appeals to them.
Certain difficulty in audit practice rights in Nepal despite the availability of pathway and equivalency issues are the most common problems faced by ACCA in Nepal. Apart from that with respect to challenges in the workplace, certain gaps in knowledge about Nepalese law and Nepalese taxation could be the issue since that was not the part of the syllabus since we study UK variant for law and tax however continuous efforts from the learning provider, tutors, ACCA and ACCA students to fill the gap is a matter of discussion.
14. At the end, anything you would like to say to 10+2 students who would be pursuing for a better career option in their life?
Future is going to be very uncertain. We are talking about artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, block chain and digital disruption has tremendous impact. For those students who want to pursue ACCA, ACCA has its story and it imparts relevant skills but that is never going to be enough. Future is for those who can reinvent themselves, adapt themselves, change themselves and these abilities might reduce with age and to retain these abilities we need mental stability. ACCA students or prospective ACCA students should have these reinventing abilities and mental stability and also should think of being multi-disciplinarian. I know many ACCA members working in marketing roles, as an entrepreneur so your expertise and inclination should not be just limited to accounting and finance. If required, you should be able to work from the perspective of being multi-disciplinarian. I would say ACCA definitely help develop these skills. This is all I would like to say to all ACCA students and prospective students.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]