Skip to main content

So You Want To Be a Chartered Accountant?

A couple of months back, I had attended a talk organised by Young Corporate Malaysians (YCM). I was particularly fascinated about attending this particular talk, as it features Tan Sri Wahid Omar, who is an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.

economia May 2017 cover featuring Tan Sri Wahid Omar, Group Chairman of Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB)

The #1 advice that Tan Sri Wahid Omar had shared during his final slide (pic related), was in the pursuit of professional qualifications. Hence, it occurred to me that I could share on the subject and available pathways towards the attainment of professional qualifications - and decided that I would.

In particular, I'll be sharing on the route of attaining the Associate Chartered Accountant (ACA) of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW).

Firstly, let's get over why should we even consider professional qualifications?

  1. International recognition & prestige - professional qualifications are generally considered to be more recognised than degrees, due to the high standards upheld by the issuing bodies. An increasing number of people with degrees take up professional qualifications to remain competitive in today's job market.
  2. Job security & study leave - in obtaining a professional qualification, you are generally required to complete a certain number of years working with an employer. Should you be pursuing a qualification on a part-time basis, most employer's are more than happy to provide you with sufficient study leave. Employers are generally happy to have employees who take personal initiative to improve themselves.
  3. Relatively lower cost - if you were to enrol in an internationally recognised university, the costs of enrollment is considerably higher (assuming no scholarship is available) as opposed to a professional qualification. Also, there may be sponsorship opportunities available in return for years of service with generous and willing employers.

There are 2 general routes in which you may consider beginning your pursuit of the qualification:

School leaver route - Under this route, you will need to study and pass the papers required on a certificate level known as ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (ICAEW CFAB). It will take a minimum of 1 year to complete the certificate level before you can move on to the professional level qualification.

Degree route - There are many private and foreign universities all over the world. You may choose any degree program depending on cost, prestige and how the program is structured. If you intend to pursue a professional qualification after your degree, then I strongly recommend you look at available Credits For Prior Learning, to ascertain that your university, degree, and subjects taken will grant you exemptions from some of the examination papers needed to obtain your professional qualification.

One of the most challenging areas in pursuit of the ICAEW ACA program is that you are required to secure an ICAEW training contract with an ICAEW approved employer. The training contract will be for a minimum period of 3 years (or longer - 6 years in my case), of which you are required to serve the said employer.

The ICAEW training contract will spell out your responsibility as an employee and your employer's responsibilities too, which covers the following main areas:

  1. Leave policy for examinations
  2. Duration of contract
  3. Your Qualified Person Responsible for Training (QPRT)
  4. Sponsorship of training costs (if any)
  5. Consequences of a breach of the training contract

Once you've secured your ICAEW training contract, you're officially an ICAEW trainee. To qualify as a full fledged ICAEW member (i.e. able to use the ACA designation), you are required to fully adhere to the 4 areas below:

  1. Examinations: This is probably the most difficult part in making the cut to be an ICAEW member. You are required to pass 15 examination papers, which comprises of various subjects which will build on each other as you move from the Certificate level to the Professional level and finally when you face the pinnacle Advanced level papers. The examination papers can be taken 4 times a year (March, June, September, December). To make things difficult, you also have a maximum number of attempts of which you are allowed to re-sit these papers (I believe it is 4 attempts per examination paper).
  2. Structured Training in Ethics: As professionals, ethics is a key component which we are required to uphold in our lines of work. ICAEW places a heavy emphasis on ethics training. This is done via ethics sections being incorporated in examination papers as above, and also online ethics training - which you will be then expected to present to your Qualified Person Responsible for Training. The 5 fundamental principals of ICAEW's code of ethics are integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality, and professional behaviour.
  3. Initial Professional Development: As an ICAEW Chartered Accountant, you are also required to take initiative to upskill yourself to ensure that you obtain sufficient exposure to develop skills which are expected as a full-fledged ACA. There are 3 levels of professional development areas which you are required to fully document and discuss with your Qualified Person Responsible for Training, minimally on a 6-month interval (a shorter interval may be ideal - depending on time available). Your employer may then assign relevant work to ensure your professional development is sufficient and up to the standard required by the ICAEW.
  4. Evidence of Technical Work Experience: You will also be required to meet a minimum number of qualified working days, and be able to provide full documentation (time sheets or any other relevant document) to substantiate your claim. Following meeting all 4 criteria's required as mentioned above, you may then submit your application for membership which has been signed off by both your Qualified Person Responsible for Training and yourself - at the end of your training contract.

Voila - you'll get your membership acknowledgement via email and after a couple of weeks, receive your hard earned Certificate of Membership - approved by the Members of Council and CEO of ICAEW.

Consider checking out other accounting bodies such as ACCA or CIMA or CPA (feel free to Google "professional accounting qualification").

If you're keen on considering a career in finance, you could consider the Chartered Financial Analyst ("CFA") professional qualification.

I wish you all the best in your pursuit of professional qualifications!

Just to share, I personally was inspired to take up Chartered Accountancy due to Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, where he was present at an event during my high school years - which I vividly remember.

Finally, I'd like to put on record that Dato' NK Jasani and his staff at Grant Thornton, are the people who made my dream a reality.

Thank you Amma for always being there for me!

This article has been featured on with permission.


Interesting Reads

A Beginner's Guide to Audit

Hi there. It's really been quite a while since I last posted, & I think I'd probably be doing it more often now. As most of you should already know, I've been working in the audit line for more than a year now & it's definitely amazing. In this post, I'd like to share some insights of the professional so you may widen your horizon of knowledge & widen your options for a career path.

Most of you would already know, that there are the Big 4 + 2 firms in the audit practice. They are ranked as below (you may click on the URL below the image for a link to the website).
PricewaterhouseCoopers Ernst & Young
KPMG Deloitte
Grant Thornton
Kindly do note, that all these firm's are international networks of practice which operate in the view of profits as separate entities in their own countries (e.g. US, UK, Malaysia).
Our work, as auditors (a.k.a. assurance providers) is with regard to the Financial Statements which comprise of the :
Directors' ReportBal…

Aircraft Pollution

Pollutants from more than five million civil and nearly 2,800 military flights each year are destroying Earth’s protective ozone layer and stealing blue skies, while accounting for more than 10% of global greenhouse warming.
But wait. Isn’t wild weather happening everywhere? And isn’t jet travel responsible for significant global warming? Aren’t sky-high aircraft emissions destroying the ozone layer? What about the effects of radiation exposure and lack of oxygen on humans as captive as astronauts on long-haul flights? Is zooming through thin air more than two miles above the Earth worth the risk to planet and passengers? Or should we be booking with passenger-accommodating freighters, taking the train, or staying home instead?
More than 4% of all CO2 emissions are emitted by high-flying aircraft.
What can you do? Reduce usage of aircraft by using other methods of transportSupport world peace as wars can be avoided and usage of fighter jets can be reducedSpread the word We all play a r…

Letter to You

Hola there. I finally managed to put this post up. All right, as you can see above... I'm currently employed in an audit firm, namely SJ Grant Thornton. I'm also being sponsored as an ICAEW trainee here as well. And yeah, auditing is fun. Honestly, it is. And, yeah... I have a message to all of you reading this post. Please refer below.

Dear Potential CEO,

School. A perfect place to train candidates of the most efficient employees. Then comes the million dollar question, where do these people work without employers? There is no specific subject being taught in any school around the globe on being a successful employer. Therefore, the subject that should be learned is financial education.

Financial education is a subject where someone should learn to make things work the opposite way. Employees work for money and employers don't. Employers make money work for them. This is a form of education which has outrageous demands which result in either an oblivious failure or a magnifi…

King of the Jungle

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. :)

The pic above is my workdesk. I'm currently employed by PPG as a purchaser. For those who didn't know, purchasers purchase on behalf of the company. In simpler terms, we do the shopping for the company's needs. It's the link between a company and it's suppliers. And the best part is, I work only from 8.00am - 4.30pm and have 3 breaks in between. ;p
Next up, tattoo; a permanent picture, design, or other marking made on the skin by pricking it and staining it with an indelible dye. It's a awesome process honestly. You get into the tattoo parlour. You either bring your own design or choose one of the thousands that have b…

Life Is A 4 Letter Word

Ahhh.... Life, the physical, mental, and spiritual experiences that constitute existence. Beautiful yet confusing. A good life is a main argument. And with a lil' research, I've compiled a few ways people define life in general:
Career - Studying your ass off, getting good grades, later a good job at a good company with a good paycheck, getting married, having kids and finally dying. Perhaps this is the most famous way of defining life. I find it really pretty "interesting". And the best part of this life, is that you're constantly in an unstable battle to reach financial stability. It's really a struggle most part, but I suppose that's the beauty of it. Life is difficult after all.Money - I suppose this one's really pretty popular in today's world. This one's really confusing though as there really is like two ways people look at it. Some will be like, money is everything in today's world, whereas others say money can't buy you everyth…

Not Your Average Super Hero

Ever wondered how it felt like growing up to be a superhero? Well, I'll tell ya. First up, you will have to understand that "Heroes are born, whereas superheroes are made" :)
That's me during my training days. I used M16's for criminal hunting practice. Yeah, I kinda used guns coz' I haven't learnt CQC (Close Quarter Combat) or should I say, dirtying my hands for the kills. ;p
That was me about a few years back when I bagged my first melee kill.
I had my undercover missions too, when I had to get to parties and catch some of those nasty villains.
I never missed out on clubbin' moments too as a superhero.
And finally, that's me after I saved the world. Phew, it was a tiring day really. ;p Memorable, but still exhausting. Hope ya'll enjoyed the post. I gotta go off and get those evil dudes running around now. Cheerios. =)
P/s: Nuffnang, it's now up to ya.

Turn Back The Clock

The Dawn Chorus
You're awake now
Devil-may-care you may seem
Lackadaisical you may be
Still it's venez m'aider that your acquiesce heart shrieks

Abashed with your body
You seek a mirror in clandestine
Trying your best to decipher your dreams
Finally, it's still gonna be deus ex machina for you

Unexpectedly, you remember the time you tried to jilt
You lied through your teeth about your feelings
The crux was a contingency to your lover
Causing unnecessary confutes which were contemptible in fact

The blitzkrieg was an obvious failure
Carte blanche wasn't what you truly desired
Because chastity was everything to you before
Or would you deplore it instead today

Maudlin isn't a form of cuss at all
Now all that's left is regret of the coup de grace dealt
Your ardour has always beaten your animus
It has and always will do it ad infinitum

Today you're gonna be a better person
Your adroit and affable self will help you
With alacrity you demolish your acrimony
Then realise your heart is …

Truth, Honesty & Lies

You want it all. Well, guess what? Everyone wants it all. Alright, you get it all. You sustain for a lil while. Then, you begin to lose your pride & dignity. And that's pretty much losing it all, ain't it?

I'm pretty disappointed with individuals who claim to have it all and convince others to follow in their paths to having it all too. Particularly, I'm referring to the highly famed "peak performance coach", Anthony Robbins. A one day seminar with 3000 other participants will cost you a stunning USD10,000. Well, there are also camps(like one week seminars) which are priced at around USD100,000 per participant. Overwhelming? Here's the catch. You'd be able to fire walk after the seminar. Spectacular yet possible. Read about it here. Strangely, the cool down period(time frame where you are entitled to revoke the contract and get a full refund) for his seminars are relatively low compared to other seminars. His books are spectacular reads and I'd…

Support the Local Ones from Malaysia!

Hey there. I attended the Unity Concert, and I suppose a review about the night would be alright. Yeah, I do support local bands and Klang.
First up, a pre-concert snap. Thats me and my homies. They say "a picture means a thousand words". With this one, I could give ya' a million. For starters, hows "Americans, Canadians and OCP"? =)

Next up, the bouncers, Nash, Zebo, Bobo and Fitri(Old Putera Alpha 02'). Literally, they're people employed to expel disorderly persons from a public place. I perhaps learned a thing that night. A smile and empathy can really do miracles. In life, we tend to treat and get treated like objects at times. Try giving the phrase a thought. Sometimes, we get in I - It conversations. Suggestion : Have more I - You conversations, and you'll be amazed by how amazing people can really be. Everyone has a story, sometimes you just have to stop and listen... and you might learn a lot. =)
That's Balan from the KLG Sqwad. The nig…