Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dress code for CAs?

DNA reports:

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!


  1. Agree completely.... i think the whole dress code thing is uncalled for... it almost seems like a desperate attempt to stand out in the crowd;when there is actually no need to.

  2. Rashmi, what is the rationale behind a uniform in the corporate world? I ask this as the company I used to work at has now introduced them, and in spite of the fact that I do not work there any more I find the thought of it mighty uncomfortable.

  3. hmm.. lets not link te Indian weather with wearing blazers and ties. Other professionals wear it too. As long as u have AC, nothing to worry Gracy!

    Then again, Is it cuz of ur own MBA degree tat u always talk in favour of them.(not sure. but someone told me ur an IIM -A alumni) Just asking!

  4. The weather link to the blazer-tie conundrum is an extremely important point. In Hong Kong, the chief executive (akin to the chief minister in India but hopefully less corrupt) launched a scheme encouraging financial institutions to do away with the blazer and tie to help reduce global warming in some small way (because the majoy pollution in Hong Kong comes from factories across the border in China anyway but still every attempt counts).

    Basically, because men insist on wearing the jacket and tie (a British import) in tropical weather, the Air Con - which emits harmful particles to the outside environment - is turned up to such an extent that all the women in the office are forced to either wear jackets too or walk around in sweaters and shawls. It's pretty ridiculous.

    I've noticed that the blazer and tie is used as armour by investment bankers and their ilk. One senior guy - while mopping his forehead and removing his jacket in a meeting, apologized to which my boss said "yes yes gloves off!" Honestly! Even if you're metaphorically going to battle in every meeting, why can't people focus on their skills instead of draping on all this peacock finery, that contributes to global warming and the death-by-cold of women in general.

    I personally only wear a jacket to a meeting when I'm desperately insecure. Otherwise I refuse to buy into being a pseudo-man. If corporate-types must always dress the part, won't a smart shirt and trousers suffice?

  5. Hey Rashmi,the dress code proposed by ICAI is not mandatory in wearing a uniform in an corporate office is not the intention of ICAI.Besides,I think this is good move by the ICAI to spurce up the image of the proffesion...there is notion amongst people that CAs are dull and boring people,but thats not the case.

  6. generally you will not find doctors "mandatory" wearing a white coat unless the fellow is a junior of a medical college. similarly lawyers don't "mandatory" wear black robes unless inside the court room b'coz of the "mandatory" law…

    There is another unique attribute about the lawyers and doctors - that they "in majority" deal with the "aam junta" who have little knowledge of the domain; unlike the CA's who deal "in majority" with knowledgeable population… a 'dehati' will hardly get anything to deal with a CA, whereas he will frequently visit doctors and lawyers…

    basic funda is to easily identify the professional... like a taxi driver, 'pandas' of haridwar/puri… but simply wearing a 'dhoti' or 'blazer' doesn't bring any extra talent in the concerned professional!

    uniform (as the word goes) brings only uniformity... nothing else... but yes, if the scenario in CA fields becomes something like 'haridwar' (god forbid) they will definitely need a uniform – be it dhoti or blazer! ;)...

  7. It would be interesting to know:
    1. How many lawyers work in the court-rooms, and how many do not?
    2. How many doctors work in hospitals, and how many do not?
    3. How many professions can you think of, save doctors, bankers and lawyers who have a distinctive dress codes? Isn't there lots of room still for more to barge in?
    4. Aren't lawyers manipulated?
    5. Aren't most doctors (in countries where consumers don't directly pay the doctors) manipulated?

    The accounting scandal (Enron) is definitely no match in scale to the health care (or more accurately health care delivery) scandal in the US! It involves more doctors, more money, and more states.

  8. I just wish that ICAI spent this money in hiring a proof reader for their study material. And if something is saved then an amateur designer for designing the cover pages of study material.

    Ironically on one hand - CA students kay dimaag, dil, aankhon aur kaano mein ek garam lohe kay sariye say "Substance-over-form" ghusaaya jaata hai, and on the other - ICAI members are apotheosizing form!!

    It seems, Hypocrisy is the kul-devta of.......... :-D

  9. Well,
    this is the first time I would tend to disagree with Miss Bansal. Knowing that you have been the most famous Alumni of IIM-A, in this article, the story of which is quite dated, it is quite apparent that how a person feels so superior about her / his educational background and intentionally / un-intentionally demeaning that of others.

    Well, in one of the line Ms. Bansal says about tax avoidance. Well just to quote from I-tax books: "Tax evasion is a crime and not tax avoidance if the tax planning are done within perview of laws prevailing in the land".
    And if the CAs are coming out with some so called avoidance Ideas, than they are doing so to meet the demands of the market.

    Introducing a dress code is not bad idea if the intention is to bring uniformity across everyone. Even Maruti has a dress code. Is there anything wrong with it.

    My Spontaneous reaction to comments made by Mr. Yogesh would be that he must be one of those guys who tried heaven to hell to clear CA examinations but all efforts futile. Sorry to say but it looks so.

    We don't have any right to demean any institution. All said, still CA remains, though non glamorous, but still one of the most respected profession in India with much larger shelf life than some other non-degree profession.

    Ms. Bansal Sorry again but didn't expect this out of you.

    Let me ask you one simple question: Suppose you invite a financial advisor and Two advisors steps in. One in Excalibur shirt and Raymond’s Trousers and the other one donning Zodiac shirt with best available blazer in the town. Who will look more impressive to you?

    In English, well someone has rightly said - First impression is the last impression.

    Just to finish my long comment CAs and MBAs can never be threat to each other but always complement each other.

  10. "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." While you're completely entitled to your opinion, it may well make sense to check whether this is actually a fact. I do believe that CA firms have, in the past, been subject to some very serious enquiries and / or closure because of suspected malpractice. Besides, ask anyone who worked for Arthur Andersen (I'm one, to start with...). They would be glad to explain to you how the firm got shut down due to a malpractice suit...:) In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I am a CA.


  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. What started as a comment on a dress code being suggested by the Institute became a critical comment on the proffession itself ... Why? That I fail to understand. The author claims she has nothing against the CA's .... the piece that she has written is absolutely contradictory to what she has claimed. Her attitude only smacks of that most common malaise in all societies ..... 'slam' anyone who do well ..... sheer jealousy? sheer cussedness? This argument about CA's signing 'doctored' reports can go on and on ..... there would be no end to it .... but I am afraid you are wrong. We can never do that, at least, those who are true to the profession can never do so. And therein lies the rub. For a couple of black sheep please dont ostcarise the whole profession. Thats simply not done. In this particular you have just gone overboard with your uncalled for criticism.

  13. I just have one question. You say here that "I have not heard of CAs being 'unchartered' for malpractice." Agreed, but have you ever seen such a thing in Law? If a lawyer tries to defend a client, be it a murderer who is found guilty at the end, who is punished? The lawyer who has been taking up the case just adds a "lost case" to his career. But if he is able to prove a murderer innocent, and at a later point of time it is found that the suspect was guilty, is the lawyer ever punished?

  14. Well, i totally agree with what Prashant said. U take away the presentation skills from MBAs and they will be like any other ordinary graduates. If you look at the long list of CAs who have made it to the top, it will speak for itself.

  15. I am sure likes of Rashmi must be turning in their beds with the kind of nightmare it is, CAs in industry drawing good, my god....

    Surely too but she has comments for every thing whether or not the same seems to be a good sense.

    I really scents that Rashmi and her colleauge had been hired by some to say fowl at evrythings, thats the biggest identity crisis with her so called MBA degree/diploma. What are they aspiring to compete with CAs afterall, i.e. they too view that they have to reach to the level of CAs and the cross over.

    Rashmi & Fellows: Keep having the sip of your own drink and feel comfortable that they you are on a moon where you are above the entire world..

    Best Wishes


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