Opinion: Veli Mcobothi - Do CA exam changes benefit rich students?

Last week UCT Professor Alex Watson gave her view on the upcoming CA examination changes. This week Veli Mcobothi*, a CA (SA) and director at investment and advisory business Cinga Holdings, adds his voice to the debate. He wonders whether the changes mainly benefit wealthier students and feels the exams need a greater emphasis on leadership and ‘financial history’.

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When I read a CFO South Africa tweet saying that there will be changes to the "Board Part 2" exams, I got excited thinking that finally someone has realised what I've been thinking all along.

The CA (SA) designation is one of the few world class professional qualifications we have in South Africa. Our auditing, corporate governance and financial services industries are highly rated all over the world. A large number of sectors have professionals with CAs in their leadership structures. How many times have you heard a top matriculant in the country saying 'I want to study towards CA (SA)'? It is a title to aspire to!

Now SAICA plans to introduce a Case Study Assessment to replace the current "Board Part 2" of the qualifying exams for both aspirant auditors and financial managers. This is great, as there will be one designation again.

However, my concern is that the case study will be released 5 days before the assessment. The idea of 5 days preparation with colleagues makes sense. Candidates are encouraged to work in teams and share research but are not permitted to consult anyone other than fellow candidates. I know that parents with resources will make assistance from fellow candidates available for their child, but if you live in Limpopo, where the next candidate may be many kilometres away, how do you collaborate?

A CA(SA) is likely to lead human beings during his or her career and I think THAT is where the exams need more emphasis. The technical training is stringent and requires dedication, but are we not robbing ourselves by not including humanities in the training? What are the chances of repeating Enron if our CAs have never studied topics like Financial History as part of their CA(SA) training? How do Chartered Accountants learn how to create high performance teams? Wouldn't a course called "Behavioural Economics and The Theory of Incentives" be helpful?

There's been a significant increase in the number of CAs from the previously disadvantaged population. Let's remove all artificial barriers including ones related to who you parents are.

*Veli Mcobothi is a CA(SA) who gained a wealth of investment experience at Investec Private Equity. He is Independent Non-Executive Director and Chairman of various committees at Value Group Limited and Litha Healthcare Group Limited and is an Executive Director at investment and advisory business Cinga Holdings.