19 Jul 2021 19:49 IST

Multidisciplinary practice for CAs can set a new paradigm

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Domain experts will need to form a holistic view to look at performance statements from multiple parameters

The formal announcement by the government permitting professionals from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India to delve into multidisciplinary practice could not have come earlier. It now allows practising professionals to partner with other registered professionals such as Cost Accountants, Company Secretaries, Engineers, Actuaries and Advocates, the last being subject to the approval of the Bar Council.

Professionals who were looking forward to it were always in discussion about when it was coming rather than if it was coming. The announcement having been made, it is now for professionals to put their heads together to determine what this would mean and how this could change the dynamics of professional practice in the years to come.

Changing approach

The announcement has come at a time when there are a couple of global initiatives that are increasingly getting to the forefront that will potentially have a material bearing on the corporate world. These would alter the way professionals and corporates think. The first being the increasing emphasis on ESG, i.e., environmental, social and corporate governance, and the other being stakeholder capitalism. The latter is increasingly becoming the subject matter of intense debates among activists considering the increasing value divide even in the corporate world.

The ESG initiatives, also being driven by multilateral agencies, would have a bearing on how investors, or more relevantly stakeholders, start evaluating the annual performance statements of corporates. The performance of corporates is not going to be evaluated solely on what was hitherto restricted to financial parameters but would address larger issues of social responsibility and governance.

Evaluation of this nature would require professionals to look at performance statements not from a single prism but will necessarily have to examine them from multiple parameters. This would imply that it may not be possible for single domain professionals to understand this completely and comprehensively but would necessarily have to involve and associate other domain experts to form a holistic view.

Encouraging competition

The other area that is rocking the commercial world is the convergence of technology into operations where fie can never be out of place in such a proposition. If one is to look at the opportunities in the emerging fields of fintech, it is evident that it would not be possible for comprehensive exploitation of its potential unless practising professionals from both the technology world as well as finance put their heads together to look at solving problems of the various stakeholders. This convergence is not going to be limited to just fintech but will have to extend into other emerging areas like healthtech, medtech or agritech to name a few.

The opportunity for professionals is not just going to be limited to domain expertise but the success will be determined by how the critical soft issues are addressed by the professionals. Like in any corporate merger, the success would be determined by how well these issues are addressed. These will have to be driven by a very high degree of not just collaborative initiatives but meaningful competition i.e., cooperation amongst competitors. If this is done well, we could see the emergence of new models of professional assurance services.

(The writer is Partner, RVKS and Associates, Chennai.)