Do CAs lack a fundamental understanding of business? Are CAs are being overlooked in favor of MBAs?
Are Chartered Accountants being replaced by MBAs as CFOs? Here’s how revamping the CA curriculum can change the scenario.
- Enrolments for the Chartered Accountancy qualification in India have dropped by 30%.
- According to The Ken, Businesses are hiring more MBAs for the CFO role instead CAs.
- Is Chartered Accountancy still a good career option today?
The Ken, an Indian business news website published an article that drew a comparison between Chartered Accountants and MBA holders from IIM A, B, & C.
It mentioned that in corporate India, CAs are being overlooked in favor of MBAs or even tax lawyers.
This is because businesses perceive that CAs lack a fundamental understanding of the business context and basic presentation skills that MBAs possess.
Consequently, more and more MBAs are being appointed as CFOs, a role that was once dominated by CAs.
But is it true, that CA qualification is losing its shine? Is it true that MBAs will be preferred over CAs for CFO roles?
Let us dive in.
Firstly… Problems exist
1. Drop in CA course enrollment:
- Enrolments to the CA course have dropped by 30% in the past few years, and ICAI’s placement data shows salaries are stagnant and company participation is declining.
- Many are opting for qualifications that are less time-consuming and have a higher passing percentage. Chartered Accountancy, which was once a highly sought-after qualification, is losing its demand among the new generation of students.
- Chetan Lunkar a CA and Director for Forensic & Dispute Services took to LinkedIn to elaborate on this matter.
- He mentions that the key statistic is the number of registrations, which has declined from 88,000 (2019-20) to 70,000 (2021-22) for CA Intermediate and from 67,000 (2019-20) to 32,500 (2021-22) for CA Final.
2. CA degree is not considered the apex qualification in the Financial domain:
- CA Chetan Lunkar further explained that while one can argue that comparing CAs to MBAs is not fair, unlike the CA course which has a unified examination process, MBAs are of different pedigrees with divergent skill sets.
- There are various reasons for this including the perceived difficulty of the course, in his opinion.
- Industry at large does not consider a CA degree as the apex qualification in the financial domain.
- To put things in perspective, earlier finance professionals were primarily required to be adept in bookkeeping and financial reporting. But today the job demands a finance professional to be more nimble, all-rounded, and contribute to the top line/bottom line.
- And this requires expertise in adjoining domains such as enterprise risk management, regulatory compliance, and operations.
3. The Indian government doesn't prefer CAs anymore?:
- Previously, the Indian government had appointed CAs to high-powered committees responsible for framing nation-changing policies.
- However, they no longer hold the same level of preference, according to reports.
What are companies looking for in Modern CFOs?
The role of a CFO requires a diverse set of skills that encompass financial management, strategic thinking, leadership, communication, technology, and legal and regulatory compliance.
As companies are looking to expand and grow, they require CFOs who can provide a more comprehensive view of the business. They want CFOs to help drive its overall strategy, rather than just focusing on financial reporting and compliance.
While CAs have traditionally been focused on accounting and finance, MBAs typically have a more diverse background that includes areas such as marketing, operations, and strategy.
This is where MBAs can bring value to the table, as they have a broader understanding of the business environment and can provide a more holistic perspective.
Additionally, the changing business landscape has resulted in a shift towards more data-driven decision-making, which requires CFOs to be well-versed in data analysis and technology.
Meenakshi Dagar, a CA and India CFO of Lenovo says that you need to have a 360-degree view of your team, competitors, and industry. What has worked today may not work tomorrow, which means you will have to keep tabs and challenge yourself.
CA Vikas Wadhawan, CFO of Housing.com believes “Today, a CFO is expected to bring operational resilience through his multi-faceted role. Aside from having a firm grip on numbers, and a deep understanding of the business and growth drivers of the business, a CFO must also demonstrate that grit, which is typical of a leader, and highly necessary to help a business grow during different phases amid cut-throat competition.”
What needs to be fixed?
To succeed in the industry at large, broad-based skills are a pre-requisite, and the current design of article training is not attuned to meet these requirements and needs a significant revamp.
The focus has to be more on skill-based training of the student's choice across a range of industries and sectors, which would mean a pivot from the CA practice-focused model of article training.
The article training program for CAs needs to be revamped to provide skill-based training of the students' choice across a range of industries and sectors.
This would require a pivot from the current practice-focused model of article training.
Increased emphasis on strategy and business acumen in finance leadership requires CAs to have stronger communication and interpersonal skills.
By developing a more diverse skill set and improving their communication skills, CAs can become diverse and be of more value add.
They need to develop their expertise in areas such as enterprise risk management, regulatory compliance, operations, data analysis, and technology.
But can we conclude CAs are no longer preferred as CFOs?
MBAs are not necessarily replacing CAs in the CFO role, but they are increasingly being considered for CFO positions due to their broader skillset and knowledge
In the end, it's not necessarily a matter of MBAs making better CFOs than CAs, but rather a matter of the skillsets and expertise that each brings to the table.
And when it comes to the role of the CFO itself, they should know that it has evolved. It has changed because of technology and modern CFOs should take notes.
Nowadays Finance Professionals should understand that data analytics, cyber security, and AI are here to stay.
The modern CFO looks at innovation in business and finds ways to drive the production of the right product, mixed with dynamic pricing & financing models.
It is unlikely that MBAs will replace CAs as CFOs.
In many cases, companies look for CFOs who have both CA and MBA qualifications, as this combination of skills can be highly valuable in managing the financial operations of the company.
Ultimately, the choice between a CA or an MBA as CFO will depend on the specific needs of the company and the individual qualifications and experience of the candidates being considered.
However genuine issues in CA articleship, curriculum, post-qualification specialization certificates, and the value of the degree, should be resolved; which is what the ICAI is looking into.
Looking for career advice? Book a 1:1 paid call with an industry expert. Fill up this form.