From crunching numbers to calling the shots, chartered accountants (CAs) ruled India’s monetary roost for a long time. Their expertise in managing costs and generating financial statements is still the bedrock of countless businesses, large and small. Yet, recent trends in the top 100 companies listed on the National Stock Exchange reveal a moment of reckoning for the profession.
Those with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree are breaking the monopoly CAs have enjoyed in top financial roles. While 43% of chief financial officers (CFOs) in these companies come from accounting backgrounds; the number of CAs in these top designations dropped to 36 in 2022 from 58 four years ago, The Ken has learnt.
With 34 MBA holders occupying these positions in the Nifty-100 companies, the astute and canny CAs—who could deftly navigate complex regulatory and compliance matters—are losing their sheen.
This shift can be attributed to the fact that CFOs need to possess a range of skills beyond accounting to become value-adding business partners, according to Neelabh Shukla, the chief business officer at recruitment firm CareerNet.
Moreover, the ebb and flow of the job market has rippled through the halls of the CA academia. Firstly, student enrollment for the course has seen a ~30% decline in the past decade—the total registration of CAs fell to 224,000 in 2022 from 311,000 in 2013. Then, the number of companies participating in placements is stuck at 130-135 since 2018. Finally, the average annual salary has been hovering around the Rs 9 lakh (US$11,000) mark, according to the ICAI data.
The ICAI President Aniket Sunil Talati sought to assuage concerns about the fall in registrations and dismissed it as “propaganda” when The Ken reached out to him. “CA course is in huge demand and remains the profession of choice in the commerce stream,” he insisted.
Talati added that to understand the state of enrollments, one must examine the registration numbers for the CA Foundation course, which is a marker for entry into the programme. He underscored the uptick in figures, which soared from 45,000 in 2018-19 to 121,300 in 2021-22.
However, the aggregate numbers can’t be ignored.
Students take the Foundation exam even while pursuing other courses to keep their options open. However, analysing how many students register for the second level gives a better picture, as only those who are serious about the course tend to pursue it further.
Course registrations for the other two levels have also declined since 2019-2020.