Sri Lanka has more CIMA certified accountants than anywhere except Great Britain. So more than India, or China, for now. A 2010 NYTimes article said that Sri Lanka had 10,000 accountants at the time and that 30,000 people were enrolled. In this interview, Andrew Harding, the Managing Director of CIMA Global, says that 4,000 people enrolled last year. So it’s a lot. So what?
I’ve been dabbling in enough business that it all breaks down to numbers, and accounting is not housekeeping. More and more, management accounting – ‘giving clarity out of complex data’ as Mr. Harding said – is vital in the board room. I mean, the Governor of the Central Bank is essentially an accountant (not an economist), but that’s not really a good example.
Above was part 2, the relevant part here starts around 6:20
Mr. Harding was in town because CIMA is holding their international Global Business Challenge here (it concludes tonight, you can follow a live feed here). Watched a bit of the feed (on the monitor) and the presentations looked quite interesting. The competition is about case studies, in this case assessing a hypothetical TV company and recommending solutions. So it’s not like the accountants are preparing the books, they’re recommending and creating strategy.
That’s one end of it, the board level. At the same time, Accounting is one internationally accepted qualification that enables Sri Lankans to do back office work here, or migrate. I’ve seen some of the exam and course material and it’s damn hard, but at the same time I do wish I knew a bit more about accounting.
Finally, one question I asked Mr. Harding was about accounting and ethics. I asked because the Global Business Challenge is sponsored by Barclay’s, a once venerable firm whose CEO recently stepped down because they were fixing interest rates, essentially cooking the global books. What Mr. Harding said was that they’ve done surveys and over 50% of accounting professionals in Asia said they had felt pressured to do unethical things. They also asked what protects them and they said it’s the professional code (ie CIMA). Which one hopes works, that open guilds like this can regulate what laws and politicians seemingly cannot. It is in the long term interests of everybody.