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TOPP – the pinnacle of success for CAs (SA) in commerce and industry

Last Updated Nov 2008

By: Administrator Account

Johannesburg, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 - More than 70% of chartered accountants [CAs(SA)] registered with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) practice in commerce and industry - the largest constituency of SAICA's 27 047 members.

With the aim of addressing the constituency's needs, SAICA continues actively to promote the TOPP (Training Outside Public Practice) programme to produce CAs(SA) in the numbers required to support the South African economy, particularly in commerce and industry.

TOPP is the financial management training route that offers prospective CAs(SA) an alternative to the conventional auditing route TIPP (Training Inside Public Practice) to qualifying as a CA(SA).

TOPP's primary objectives are to:

  • Encourage greater entry into, and upward mobility within, the accountancy profession - especially for those wishing to practice as CAs(SA) in commerce and industry;
  • Increase the supply of scarce skills by creating more professional training opportunities for potential CAs(SA) in commerce and industry; and
  • Promote education, training and retention of key accounting professionals in large organisations.

The programme was re-launched in 2006 with the aim of accentuating its significance to prospective and current CAs(SA) in commerce and industry.

Adri Kleinhans, SAICA's Project Director for Training, says that in the past the vast majority of CAs(SA) left public practice upon qualifying and took up positions in commerce and industry.

"This often resulted in re-training, as the traditional training route focused on auditing rather than on financial management and business principles. Therefore we would like to encourage those aspirant CAs(SA) who want to practice in commerce to consider the TOPP route, thereby avoiding any retraining requirement when they decide to leave public practice."

She says that CAs(SA) who work in commerce have a wide and diverse range of financial duties, with their positions demanding that they are intimately familiar with all aspects of their company's financial management.

They are expected to:

  • Be knowledgeable on tax issues;
  • Undertake financial accounting work;
  • Manage the internal audit function;
  • Provide cost and management accounting information and variance analyses; and
  • Undertake special project work.

Both the TIPP and TOPP routes require prospective CAs(SA) to complete a BCom degree at an accredited university followed by a Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA).

Thereafter, they must enter into a three-year training contract as exposure to relevant workplace experience before writing their Qualifying Examinations (QE).

The alternative TOPP route involves training at an Approved Training Organisation (ATO) in commerce and industry and the TIPP route at an accountancy firm of Registered Auditors and Accountants (RAA).

TOPP is typically provided by large organisations like Investec, Shoprite Checkers, FirstRand, Edcon, Eskom, IDC, SARS, MTN, Nedbank, Sasol, Standard Bank and many other leading companies.

"TOPP holds outstanding potential for career growth in various fields, particularly in the spheres of banking, insurance, manufacturing, mining and others," says Kleinhans.

She says the TOPP programme equips the aspirant CA(SA) with multidisciplinary skills - crucial in today's competitive economy. "It gives prospective CAs(SA) exposure to the business environment, a factor that unsurprisingly appeals to potential employers. For these reasons, we are seeing an increase in the number of organisations in commerce and industry wishing to partner with SAICA to contribute to developing the economy's skills base."

The minimum term of a CA(SA) following the TOPP route is 36 months. Since its inception, a total of 261 CAs(SA) candidates have obtained their designation through the programme.

The pass rate in SAICA's part II (Financial Management) specialisation qualifying examination is consistently increasing, primarily because of the extraordinarily impressive quality of training given to the trainees, which can, in turn, be ascribed to the stringent accreditation process applicable to SAICA's accredited training officers.

During the SAICA 2007 part II financial management qualifying examination results, which were released in February 2008, the following organisations produced the most passes;

Investec (12),
FirstRand (9),
Nedbank (7), and
Shoprite Checkers (7).

During the same qualifying exam, Laura Sassoon, a newly qualified CA(SA) from Stanlib Wealth Management, emerged as the top candidate.

Laura completed her BAcc at Wits University and then spent 18 months with KPMG as part of the auditing training route, TIPP. "Although I learned a great deal, I realised that my passion was not auditing. So I decided to change over to TOPP and joined Stanlib. I haven't looked back."

She believes that CAs(SA) play an increasingly important role in the shaping of a business. "A background in accountancy creates an extremely disciplined approach to business. Accountants generally have good analytical ability, think in a systematic and logical way and are able to work quickly and accurately with numbers."

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