July 2021

CA PROFESSION IN THE POST-COVID ERA: DOOM OR BOOM?

Ninad Karpe | Madhukar N. Hiregange
Chartered Accountants

The digital world has changed everything around us – the way we live, the way we work and, indeed, the way we think. If there was any reluctance in the minds of any professional in embracing the digital world, the Covid pandemic has ensured that this gets dissipated. Digital is no longer on the periphery, it has now become mainstream. Importantly, these changes are permanent. So, is it time to write the obituary for the analogue world?

These profound changes will impact all professions, including CAs. But is it ‘doomsday’ for the CA profession, or will this herald a new way of working and throw up some new opportunities?

REDEFINE IDENTITY & MODALITIES OF DELIVERY

A quick dive into the history of digital adoption shows that the BFSI sector (banking, financial services and insurance) has been quick off the block to rapidly implement digitisation, not just in its peripheral functions but also in its core activities. Banking business has gone through a churn and progressive bankers now say that they are in the technology business, with banking services slapped on technology. As a general rule, professions have been reluctant digital adopters. However, now that they are left with no other option, all professionals are rapidly implementing technology in their work. The scenario for CAs is also changing swiftly. Like banks, will CAs need to make a paradigm shift in their outlook and embrace a narrative of ‘being in the technology business with their professional services slapped on the technology backbone’? If this happens, will it herald a paradigm shift in the way in which services are offered by CAs to their clients?

Models

The recent lockdowns and travel restrictions have altered the way of working for all professionals. From heading to office on Monday mornings, CAs now head to their workstations. ‘Work from home’ is the new reality and in fact, has now evolved into ‘work from anywhere’. All future homes of CAs will need to be designed to accommodate some space to allow work from home. Commuting for hours within the city and also travelling for work will come down dramatically, leading to an improvement in productivity. Even after the restrictions are removed, it is unlikely that CAs will go back to the normal routine of going to office every day. Eventually, a hybrid model will evolve, where CAs will go to office only when required. In fact, some CAs have sold their offices or given up high rent offices situated at prime locations. There are anecdotes of some CAs from industry, unable to work from home, who have decided after the end of the first lockdown to hire shared space nearer to home instead of travelling again. And they are doing this by individually bearing the cost of renting the space. Will this continue as a strong trend? Will a new model emerge of comparing per square foot re

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