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Grooming financial minds



Do aspiring finance professionals get enough guidance to make the right career choices? At a recently held round table discussion, the editorial team of ET Ascent pondered over this question along with representatives from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), their learning partners and various educational counsellors


According to the ‘100 drivers of change for the global accountancy profession’ report by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), a global body for professional accountants, 65% of children entering school today will work in jobs that do not currently exist, which creates a big challenge for the education sector. Like every other industry, the financial world is also grappling with rapid changes due to globalisation, volatility and evolving demands. The question is – are next-generation finance professionals being groomed appropriately to deal with these challenges?
Kush Ahuja, head of business relations, ACCA said, “If the industry lets the education sector know what they need and we prepare the curriculum accordingly, some headway can be made.” Toby Moseley, head of partnerships, emerging markets, ACCA added, “Counsellors and professional educational associations like ACCA both have a role to play. It’s everyone’s responsibility to scan the horizon and train future talent. And for this, we need to ensure that there is a link between employers and educational providers.”

Courses like ACCA provide a global outlook, essential for finance professionals of tomorrow. A director at one of the Big Four auditors suggested, “Business in India has become global and fantastic investments are coming in. So we need to ensure that education providers know what’s relevant outside India.” Rohit Gala, owner and chief counselor, Svastrino Consultancy Services said there should be daily involvement between students and the industry. Swati Salunkhe, MD, Growth Centre pointed to the fact that teenagers are most influenced by what their parents think about them. Hence, any change would require the awareness and support of parents as well.

Everyone unanimously agreed that students are not being prepared for volatility and turbulence. Yet, they need to be equipped with adaptability and the ability to innovate and the current educational system has to evolve to accommodate these. “Everyone is risk-averse; so no one wants to take the blame,” averred Vishal Thakkar, counsellor, Mayur Pankh Consultancy.

The need to make students aware of application-based finance and accounting courses and provide them real world exposure has never been more pressing. Ahuja opined, “While we’re being taught how to calculate, we are not being taught how to analyse. So nobody knows how to apply memorised theories. The focus of the ACCA qualification is on what you can apply at the workplace. Each paper you give prepares you for a different competency. You need three years of relevant work experience in order to become a member of ACCA.” Navya Dhillon, co-founder, Needs Counselling had a one-word answer to this problem – internships.

Financial acumen is an essential skill not just for those who will be signing balance sheets but also for aspiring entrepreneurs. Moseley spoke about essential skills for professionals, “Often, students lack professional skills like leadership and strategy, which are important to quickly add value to organisations. You need to be able to understand the business to have an active voice in decision-making.” Anuj Jain, chief counselor, EduGroomers suggested, “Finance accounting is a transferable skill that everyone should know. For the younger generation, it’s an opportunity to be adept at accounts, no matter what career they get into.”

Considering that Generation Z spends so much time on social media, can it also be utilised to spread awareness about career choices? The panellists were divided in their opinion. Although Jain didn’t think it was a good idea, Ahuja was in favour of using social media to inform and influence the youth. “An email to a youngster may not get read. But share a link on Whatsapp and they will be inquisitive enough to visit it. On the other hand, parents are likelier to read a hard copy,” he said. Thakkar narrated the story of a man who won an award for training his employees using Whatsapp, on subjects like customer service and documentation. “The medium is available; it’s up to us what we use it for,” he said.

Thus, the discussion was an eye opener with regards to the approach to be taken to educate young aspiring finance professionals.

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