“Communication—written as well as verbal—is an important skill we look for.”
Darshan Patel is a Partner and Executive Director at PwC India. He leads the organization’s Forensics Services practice in Mumbai. A Chartered Accountant with over 17 years of experience within PwC, he spent nine years as part of the Forensics practice in New York. An expert in forensics accounting investigations, FCPA compliance reviews and investigations, Darshan specializes in multinational and complex litigation and investigation assignments. In this conversation with AlphaVeda, he provides useful career guidance to aspiring Chartered Accountants and offers tips on acquiring skills necessary for career success.
Q. 1. What employment options are available for candidates on becoming CAs?
A: There are several career fields you may opt for today but it is important that you assess a field’s long term growth potential before entering it. For instance, tax is a field which always has had a good growth potential—since every corporation needs to have a tax department.
Q. 2. How does one identify the promising fields?
A: I would suggest that you look for a field that’s relatively new. To that effect, advisory/ consulting is a good option. I specialize in forensics and this segment in particular is a challenging profession. Banking and financial services is another area with immense growth opportunity. There will always be a need for CAs in this industry.
Q. 3. Do these career-options require any domain-specific skills?
A: Individuals with specialized knowledge of multiple fields can easily differentiate themselves from the lot and experience rapid career-growth. For instance, for an arbitration matter, CA with a law degree will be a natural choice. To give you a real business example, a CA with IT certification currently heads our investigations technology practice. A dual-qualification and expertise helps him understand both sides well.
Doing an additional, non-related degree course can prove beneficial—do CA with Information Technology or with Law.
Q. 4. What else should one do?
A: In addition to acquiring multiple degrees, you must read voraciously. If you are studying law, update yourself with the latest developments in the legal world.
Q. 5. How lucrative is the CA career?
A: Your salary package and increments depend on the point at which you enter the job-market; so start your career in a good firm. Various companies look at different parameters when setting salaries.
Professionals who perform well can expect a good annual growth. But this is not a rule. The trend today is to keep a component of the salary as variable, which usually is linked to the performance of the business-unit and the organization in addition to the employee’s performance.
Q. 6. What is the difference between a big 4 firm and a small firm?
A: In a small firm, you will get to do several things; you will even get to talk to the senior-most people in your firm. But your exposure is likely to be limited.
On the other hand, Big 4 firms allow you to interact with professionals from several large enterprises. Big 4 firms provide international exposure. For instance, if you have a query related to fraud investigation, you can quickly take tips from a specialist based in another geography who has worked on several such cases before. This leverage is huge—you get access to global expertise. In a Big 4 firm, you can learn global business methodologies and best practices that otherwise you may not be exposed to.
Big 4 firms also make use of a number of technology tools that your working life productive.
7. At the time of hiring, what special skill sets do you look for in CA candidates?
A: Percentile marks of the candidate are important but that’s not the only criterion. Communication—written as well as verbal—is an important skill we look for. Unfortunately, many freshers are unable to write a single paragraph without mistakes. So seek opportunities, challenge yourself. Participate in writing and debate competitions when you are still studying. Nobody will teach you these things in any firm.
8. What other qualities do you look?
A: Usually, a decision is arrived at in half an hour (during the interview). So when you appear for your interview, be confident—but not over-confident. Avoid name-dropping and do not make up situations you have not faced before. Narrating an unrealistic scenario will surely get you caught. Do not put forth anything which would rope in problems for you later. You can speak about the additional skills you have acquired through efforts.
Lastly, I look for candidates with long-term dedication. We do not approve of youngsters who believe in job-hopping. That may give them quick increases in salaries in the short term but that does not look good on their resumes.