The future looks bright for the accounting profession in New Zealand, discovers Danielle Wright as she talks to the CPA Australia chief executive Alex Malley (aka The Naked CEO) and a recent business studies graduate.

According to statistics from CareersNZ, the accounting profession is steadily growing year-on-year in New Zealand with the outlook for jobs good, particularly for accountants with strong people skills.

Accountants also remain on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list.

CPA Australia chief executive Alex Malley reiterates the strong prospects for the profession in New Zealand.

"Whether it be governance, financial performance, strategic decision-making, assurance or reporting, the skills of the accountant will always be in demand," he says. "Add to that the positive turnaround of migration and local and overseas investment in New Zealand over the past five years, and the good news story for accountants continues."

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But, how do graduates get that foot in the door? The CPA Australia Career Expo this Monday at the SkyCity Convention Centre in Auckland might be just the ticket, providing access to the accounting sector decision-makers.

For the first time, the expo will also be heading to Wellington, on September 15 at the InterContinental Hotel.

"Young people are hungry for knowledge," says Malley. "I think it's the responsibility of all leaders to mentor the next generation: it's the world's greatest succession plan."

As well as his role at CPA Australia, Malley is also the author of best-seller The Naked CEO, an offshoot of his website thenakedceo.com, which was started four years ago as an online mentoring community for young people from around the world.

Expo visitors will get the chance to meet Malley and get one-on-one CV tips at The Naked CEO mentoring zone. Top employers and recruiters for local and international accounting jobs including big names such as Fonterra, PwC, Deloitte, BNZ and KPMG will also be there. Career development sessions are also on offer.

Working as an accountant is to be part of what Alex Malley, chief executive of CPA Australia, calls a
Working as an accountant is to be part of what Alex Malley, chief executive of CPA Australia, calls a "recession-proof profession." Photo / Supplied

So, where are the opportunities for the new wave of accounting graduates? Malley believes they are varied and limitless, saying the most significant growth sectors in New Zealand over the next few years will have a strong export focus including horticulture, wine, meat, seafood and wool.

"New Zealand is also punching above its weight in the development of niche, high-end products that have been enabled through increasingly sophisticated technology.

"Fisher & Paykel Healthcare's range of devices to assist with sleep apnoea are a good example. These are the types of industries that will be in demand for quality accounting graduates."

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In terms of global opportunities for accountants, Malley sees the ageing population and expanding middle classes giving rise to health and aged care industries, as well as significant investment by governments and industry in medical technology, research, pharmaceuticals and ehealth.

"The technology sector should also continue to grow and we may see considerable growth in areas including robotics, data analytics and the digital delivery of products and services," says Malley. "In the financial services sector, wealth management services are likely to grow strongly as an ageing population demands financial advice due to increasing life expectancy, falling investment returns and pressures on government revenues allocated to supporting people in retirement."

He points also to "The Asian Century" as a development that will boost tourism, leisure and education.

"My experience tells me that the one thing that matters in life is to have choice. An accounting qualification gives you that - the foundation and value proposition to work in any sector from the arts to astronomy ... to aeronautics or advertising."

Despite booms and busts, Malley says accountants continue to be employed by both businesses on the up (to make them go further), and those on the way down (to help them rise back to the top). He calls accounting a "recession-proof profession".

Tanya van der Vyver, 21, was keen to get on this robust career path and attended the inaugural Auckland CPA Australia Career Expo last year. She landed her accounts assistant job at Datacom as a direct result.

"I remember it being a very busy room and there was a station where people advised me on how to improve my CV," says van der Vyver. "I spoke to the CFO of Datacom and later emailed him my new CV. I wouldn't have known about the position if I hadn't met him at the expo."

The CPA Australia Career Expo, which is free, is an international series of events held annually across Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore, and is seen as a stepping stone into the accounting profession for students and graduates.

Van der Vyver's advice is to wear comfortable shoes, not be shy and to talk to everyone: "You never know who's going to be your magic ticket!"

Focus on figures

When: This Monday, August 17,
5.30pm - 8.30pm

Where: SkyCity Convention Centre