The Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAI), a statutory body for regulating chartered accountants in the country, has tied up with retail major Provogue to provide a dash of colour and style to the profession.
“A professional should be identified by his knowledge, garb and panache. I believe the new dress code — blue blazer and tie — will give chartered accountants a new identity,” said president of ICAI Sunil Talati.
A well intentioned but poor idea. Doctors wear white coats and lawyers may don black ones. But, they work in specific work settings like hospitals and courtrooms. By ICAI's own estimation 75,000 of the 1.4 lakh CAs registered with the body work in industry. ie. regular corporate office. Can you imagine them wearing 'uniform'??
The remaining 65,000 must be in private practice. But here too, a blue blazer and tie is not going to help 'market the brand'.
A dress code is merely cosmetic, it cannot solve an overall identity crisis.
I have nothing against CAs, despite what you may think after reading this piece.. I do believe however that the MBA has impacted the CA profession. CAs have more 'core skills' but in a world where showmanship, branding, soft skills and a macro view seem to matter more, the CA loses out.
The acid test of a professional's worth is: do I get the last word? If a doctor scribbles out medicine X, you take it. If a lawyer advises defence Y, that's what is argued in court. If you don't agree you can go to another doctor or lawyer. But whichever you finally gets to be the expert. You have to trust him or her.
With a CA, what happens. He advises. The client may or may not agree. Or even believe he knows better. CAs are manipulated or coerced into signing audits they know are false. Inflating or deflating figures. And so on and so forth.
And this is not just in India. As the Financial Times noted after the Enron scandal:
Over the past five decades, accountants have changed from watchdogs to advocates and salespersons. Auditing has become one of a number of services, including consulting and tax advice, in which accountants "sell" creative tax avoidance and financing structures.
No doubt black sheep exist in medicine and law as well but there the regulatory body when it comes to accounting is particularly weak. I have not heard of CAs being 'unchartered' for malpractice. If it does happen, it's an event so rare and invisible that no one is afraid when signing off on doctored audit reports.
Again, not to suggest MBAs are highly ethical but that's a separate story.
As a core skills profession, bound by a charter, CAs need to live up to high standards to regain their rightful place in the sun. And then, they won't need those ties and blazers...
Terribly unsuitable for Indian weather in any case!