Congratulations to the new Filipino CPAs!!!

Defining The Filipino CPA’s Winning Edge

160313062_AccountantEvery race is given an equal opportunity to excel internationally. But standing on your strength rocks gives one the winning edge in the global game.

As a Filipino CPA, how do you excel and get ahead of the pack? Knowing your strength rocks give you the idea how and where to build your professional muscles to be able to jump onto the career you have been aspiring for, not just in the local field but also in the global arena. By ‘global arena’ we do not just mean working abroad, but also working locally in a multinational company, or while serving international clients.

In this article, we will emphasize the three known strength rocks that a Filipino CPA possesses. Along the lines, tough encouragement is issued to those who fall short of this supposedly winning edge.

First strength rock:  Proficiency in international standards

The Philippine Board of Investments stated in its 2011 report that there are about 2,500 to 3,000 new CPAs annually, adept in Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAPs) and International Accounting Standards (IAS).

This adeptness in technical know-how is not just a statement of what is happening but is also a statement of marketing that raises the global expectation among Filipino CPAs as world-class professionals based on this criterion among others. Hence, every CPA aspirant is being tested of this norm and as such, every accounting professional should live up to it.

Second strength rock:  Command of the universally accepted language

Several papers and publications refer to this as the Filipino’s proficiency in English. We are known for this but I felt the need, not to cite supporting facts on this, but to issue a word of caution – that this claimed strength can fall to a burning weakness.

Because of this perceived strength, some Filipinos slack in improving their language skills. Some claim that they can speak better than other nationalities. Some say, “A lot of Asians and even Europeans speak English with a lot of grammatical errors so why should I even bother improving on my grammar?”

The challenge is in not making others’ weakness as your standard but to set your own standard a notch higher than the present level you are at.

On the other hand, there are Filipino professionals that master this language tool but forgot about the language goal. English is the tool, but to communicate is the goal.

Take time to invest attention in working on this second strength rock, and the horizon should not be on the tool alone but aligned to the goal of communication.

Third strength rock:  Integrity.

This is not normally part of the list and it seems a cliché to put it but a man of integrity always has the winning edge.

I once shared this question on Facebook, “What are the things you need to forego to get that something you really want?” One of the answers came from a CPA friend and she said, “(I need to give up my) job to have integrity.”

In different occasions, the international corporate world was disturbed by a number of accounting scandals. Lifting from the long list of 10 Worst Corporate Accounting Scandals by, there was the Waste Management Scandal of 1998 where they reported $1.7 billion fake earnings; the Enron Scandal of 2001 where they kept huge debts off the balance sheets; Wordlcom Scandal in 2002 where they inflated assets by as much as $11 billion; the Lehman Brothers Scandal of 2008 where they hid over $50 billion in loans disguised as sales; and the Saytam Scandal of 2009 where they falsely boosted revenue by $1.5 billion.

Amidst this sad fact is the good truth that there are still a lot of accountants with integrity that help uncover these fraudulent schemes and work toward preventing them. The business world needs them, and seeks for more of them. And this just makes the sense that having integrity spells a winning edge.

Accountants do not just prepare financial statements; instead, accountants provide information to several users to make a sound financial decision. This makes integrity paramount in the practice of accountancy.

Every profession is built upon a set of values. And one of the foundational values of the accountancy is integrity. If the value that builds this profession is ruined, then the entire profession is ruined. There is no such thing as accounting without integrity.

These three strength rocks should not come individually. They should come together, like the sides of the triangle. One or two without the other would not make the figure. These three combined is the defining factor. The first two strength rocks represent the essential technical and soft skills, and the third one represents the core of attitude. As Denis Waitley said, “The winner’s edge is not in a gifted birth, a high IQ, or in talent. The winner’s edge is all in the attitude, not aptitude. Attitude is the criterion for success.”

Do you want to become a victor in the global game? Build on these three strength rocks that define the Filipino CPA’s winning edge.

Proper Netiquette

a computer screen icon of the @ sign with symbols superimposedIf you are someone who knows words well, you would agree that some words are arbitrary. You can coin words and use it to your convenience. And if you’re lucky enough, your coined word can get socially and grammatically accepted like brunch, smog, dramedy, and etc. Instead of saying “I had a late breakfast and an early lunch in one sitting”, you can just simply say, “I had brunch”.

One of the widely-used coined words in English-speaking countries where internet is accessible is the word “Netiquette”. It was first used in 1970′s as a step-by-step instruction in handling the new electronic mail system in a Xerox facility called Palo Alto Research Centre. From its root words, network and etiquette, it is widely known as the set of behaviour that a person should observe while communicating online. It basically oversees the behaviour involved in communication on the internet; setting basic parameters that will serve as guidelines to online communication.

Have you ever been annoyed by a comment posted in an online forum because the person didn’t obviously bother to read the previous comments in the thread? Have you ever thought of blocking or deleting a person from your friends list because he has been posting the same thing again and again commonly known as spam? Have you experienced receiving email with its content typed in all-caps? Since you are reading this article and have access to the internet, more than likely the answer is yes.

The abovementioned unpleasant incidents are just a few of what you should avoid doing yourself online. These are clear manifestations and display of lack of netiquette.

A book entitled Netiquette, written in 1994 by Virginia Shea, discussed the core rules of netiquette. Here is the summary of the basic rules of netiquette that we have to keep in mind while online based on her book:

1. Keep in mind that the people who read our posts or the person we interact with online are human beings. They have sensitive feelings that we can hurt unknowingly if we are not careful enough in choosing our words. Avoid using offensive language even if you are mad or having a heated online debate with someone. When faced with these testing situations, refrain from attacking the person by addressing him with bad words, throwing a threat, or calling them names. Avoid igniting heated arguments or debates online even if the person you want to engage in verbal tussle deserves the heat. Practice self-control.

2. Before posting anything online, see to it that you project a good image of yourself because the readers are not going to see you. Therefore, you are not going to be judged based on your physical appearance. The only way they can get an idea of who you are is thru your words. So make it count. You will be judged by the sense that you put in your posts.

3. Don’t be too keen in finding fault in others’ posts or comments. American historian, Don Rittner said, “No matter how well you know the rules of netiquette, you will eventually offend someone who doesn’t”. So be sensitive and tactful at all times. Don’t forget that everyone was once a novice before they became experts. So be kind and polite in letting them know their faults.

4. Write clearly. Use simple and familiar words. Avoid using slang and do not abbreviate or shorten the words for the benefit of those who are not very familiar with the English language. Remember that the people on the other side of the web will be seeing nothing but just your words so make sure that you get the message across correctly by using proper punctuation in your sentences and to minimize misinterpretations.

5. One of the most important things we have to be cautious about is copyright infringement. Make sure you read the terms and conditions before you repost or download anything on a particular website. If you cannot cite the source, at least include a disclaimer in your post. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to take chances on something where the idea of being sued is involved. The terms and conditions on some websites
may seem a lot to read but if it would mean awareness on the do’s and don’ts then it should be worth your time and effort.

6. Avoid wasting others’ time. When posting a reply or comment on a thread or forum, write only what is really worth your readers’ time and effort. It will be helpful if you read the thread first before posting to make sure that your comment will contribute to the discussion and will not be just some kind of reiteration of others’ previous comments.

7. When participating in a forum discussion, stay on topic. Avoid segues or insertion of irrelevant comments. Moreover, when replying on a specific comment posted by others, it will be more helpful for other participants in the thread if you will quote the specific comment
that you are replying to.

8. Keep in mind that netiquette required from an Internet user may vary based on the nature of the website or forum. For example, if you are on a forum about actors or actresses, it is okay to post something without verifying the facts or even if your source isn’t reliable. On the other hand, this is not acceptable on the website of your local newspaper. It may also be helpful if you read around first to familiarize yourself with the do’s and don’ts on the website.

9. Respect others’ privacy. Do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you. That’s the golden rule, right? Nobody wants to be spied on. So if you happen to accidentally access someone else’s account, do what you would want others to do if it was your account. Practice integrity. Do the right thing even if no one’s watching.

These are just some of the basic netiquette that we have to practice online. Its importance is unquestionable and undeniable. Chances are others are still going to feel offended and misunderstood even with these netiquettes in mind. But the goal here is not to fully eliminate the aforementioned incidents but to minimize its occurrence. So the next time we are faced with provocative situations, we should know what to do and how to do it effectively, taking into consideration others’ feelings.

If you have etiquette, just be yourself when online because what is required from you in real life is the same thing that is required from you online. After all, it is still etiquette with or without the letter “n” in the beginning.

Time To Pay It Forward

Angel_Alulod CroppedTogether we can change the world, one good deed at a time”. Anonymous

I am one of the many Filipino professionals who landed a job in the Middle East. It was a good opportunity indeed. But being an accounting graduate, I did not feel complete without that three letters announcing my professional qualification affixed at the end of my surname.

Though at some point I had set aside that dream of having that prestigious CPA license. The dilemma of fulfilling a dream or being jobless occurred in my mind, until the Special Professional Licensure Board Exam was introduced in UAE.

I thought then this must be the opportunity that I have been waiting for. Excited by the thought that I do not need to leave my job and go back to Philippines to take the review classes and the board exam, I decided to give it a try.

It was much tougher than I thought.

It was a totally different story here as it was bounded by limitations. There was no formal review classes held here. I just attended the free tutorial class offered by PICPA Abu Dhabi Chapter in preparation for the exam. A supposed-to-be review classes was not, it was like a ‘first view’ of everything. Theoretical is far different from practical or application.

Apart from this, time constraint played a big role, too. As I was not a full time student here, work was still my priority just like all of my classmates. Materials were also scarce. We did not have enough review materials. They were not easily available here.

The most daunting of all was that we did not have professional reviewers as we only have volunteer PICPA members who were kind enough to share their time and knowledge to us.

It was then that I had the privilege to meet Sir Angel Secerio.

The ‘Sir A’ as we called him in class; a letter-name that suits him. “A” for his efforts. “A” for his good heart. “A” for his dedication and passion. He is my best mentor. I have seen his passion in teaching, and it was undeniably great. He has this talent of making things look easy. I really do not understand how he does that. This, perhaps, is his “gift”. The way he explains things, it was like ‘ah ganun lang pala yun’. You add this up with his effort and hard work and you got the perfect tool for preparation. He is simply an inspiration and a role model in the art of dedication and perseverance. Knowing that all of us were working students, he maximized time as much as he could. He sent us email for quizzes, question of the day and even called us for a phone recitation just to make sure you grasped something from his lessons. This is the ‘modern’ way of review and a unique way of retention, I guess 🙂 He bought his own review materials, books, reviewers from the Philippines so he can be equipped with the ‘right’ knowledge.

He invested much on us. An investment that would never give him a return in terms of money. But this kind of investment made him the man, that sort of inspiration for me, not only as a reviewee but as a person as well. He planted a seed and waited patiently as it blooms.

And I’m proud to say that a big majority of my batch mates are now CPAs. And being aware of this, we as his students just want to pay him forward. Our batch handles the tutorial class held by PICPA for this batch 2012 of reviewees. This would be in-line with his vision of empowering accounting profession.

I may not be like him, not even close to his intelligence and skills but I’m sharing what I learned from him to others. Every time I was asked by them, how were you able to give such effort, dedication and sacrifices for teaching in volunteer review classes? I could only give them one answer: It was because of Sir A. This is what I learned from one of the best mentors that I have ever known.

It is just my way of paying him forward.

Maria Angelica H. Alulod, CPA, currently works as Assistant Accountant at Leighton Contracting (Abu Dhabi) LLC. You may get in touch with her at

Long Road To Success

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy name is Anna, a CPA.  These three letters added to my name, I thought will not be possible after failing the Philippine CPA board exam a couple of times.

But these failures never deterred me to dream and to lose hope; there’s an old saying “a will finds a way”.

If someone tells you that you can’t pass, or don’t deserve the title CPA, prove them wrong by showing your resilience, because you believe that the only way to fail is to quit. So, don’t quit and you won’t fail.

Before deciding to take the board exam for the third time in 2010, it took me quite a lot of time to analyze why it seemed that passing board exam was so difficult for me while others can.  What was the secret? What was I doing wrong or what was lacking?

It is known to everyone that in order for one to succeed you have to work hard for it. You have to be ready to sacrifice something, and always think this is going to be your last, so you have to do the best that you can, make it your priority and prepare as they say  Failure to prepare is preparing to Fail” I hope I said it right.

So here’s what I have done: 1) Bought books that I needed for the exam 2) Lessen my social activities (gimmicks) 3) Have at least 3 to 4 hours a day for study and practice test, and group study on weekends. 4) Pray (don’t underestimate the power of prayer).

I have consistently done these every day for 6 or 8 months before taking the exam. Hard that they may seems, but the ultimate prize is worth every bit of it.

Effective studying and preparing for any rigorous examination is never easy without the help of my mentors and friends/peers who were with me during these months of studying. There are subjects/topics that, no matter how you tried to understand, they seem very difficult and sometimes confuse you more.

It is always advisable to seek help from mentors as they are skilled and knowledgeable on this.  They help you understand and also give you techniques on how to tackle them. Peers also can help you a lot as the study/review will be more fun.  It helps to be in the company of people who have one aim and one goal: “Pass”.  You help one another, share your knowledge and materials, and provide encouragement to everyone in the team when one feels discouraged or someone loses focus. Most of all, you build up strong bond of friendship.

For those of you dreaming to become a CPA, start realizing it. Don’t let your age or any circumstances hold you to pursue that DREAM.  Nothing is impossible for those who choose to believe.

Strong Will To Excel

Arnel_PhotoI obtained my CIA certification in 2006 when it was still a pen and paper exam conducted simultaneously at various testing centers around the world. Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification, which remains to be the internationally accepted designation for internal auditors, puts you at the forefront in the competitive and dynamic Internal Auditing profession. I build my audit career in a big four auditing firm in the Philippines and gained rich experience in audit and finance. While this experience helped me in my transition to join another global auditing firm outside the Philippines, my CIA experience was also a key factor as it is viewed by employers to be a demonstration of competence to practice internal auditing globally.

While doing my regular Internal Auditing works in the big4 firm, I gained strong interest in fraud and forensic specialization when I was involved in a special assignment to conduct Contracts compliance review for a Master Developer whose hotel was about to be handed over by its contractor during that time. Our review noted what appears to be intention to shoot the bill up through duplicate invoices, unsupported charges, wrong application of agreed rates etc. Our review which was mainly a scratch of the surface resulted to a slash of almost 7% of the initial bill. This experience and similar other special reviews, led me to pursue the CFE certification and gain more knowledge about it. During the last quarter of 2012, I obtained my Certified Fraud Examiner certificate. With this certification, I am building my career to move to the anti-fraud profession.

Today, I work as Internal Auditor and Compliance Officer to an aviation company in the Middle East, currently the largest provider of helicopter services in the region and the charter jet division is the world’s leader.

Arnel V. Laigo, CPA, CIA, CFE, CM, is a Senior Internal Auditor whose expertise is in the field of assurance and advisory services, among others.

What Do Companies Look For In Accountants?

view of a team of business executives sitting at a tableAccountants are usually associated with number crunchers who spend their days at their desks buried under piles of paperwork and endless numbers. Naturally, companies that hire accountants require serious skill and knowledge. But it takes a lot more than that to become the kind of accountant that companies are looking for.

Some people automatically assume that all it takes to impress accounting firms and various other companies is a high CPA exam score. While that is certainly a plus, companies are looking for a lot more than technical skill and knowledge. Nowadays, companies are realizing that their businesses involve dealing with people and they should be more like consultants who are able to deal with a wide range of clients. Basically, companies are looking for accountants who have a different set of skills, such as the following:

1. Good ethics. As an accountant, you have to keep certain issues confidential. Companies want their clients to trust them, and you should exemplify that. You may also be expected to face ethical dilemmas every now and then, and your response to such incidents should be one of professionalism and trustworthiness.

2. Ability to learn and adapt. The field of finance and accounting is changing, and you should be able to keep up with such changes, stay on top of trends in your field, and learn new things so you can bring something different to the table for your clients and for the company you work for.

3. A positive, pleasant personality. You may need to deal with clients directly. As accountants can make some people wary, you have to show interest in your client and be able to discuss things easily and in a way that they can easily grasp. You’re one of the faces of the company, in fact.

4. Detail-orientedness. Accounting involves numerous details, and you need a good eye for detail to make sure that every detail adds up and there are no discrepancies.

5. Motivation and enthusiasm. You have to be passionate about the industry. This paves the way towards something even higher for your career as an accountant.


My CMA Experience

Leo_Insights Profile PicA dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” -Colin Powell

Why did I take up CMA instead of any other certifications?

As a young professional you often ask yourself “What things do I need to improve?” “Do I seek additional credentials?” In my search towards career growth and advancement it gears me towards CMA certification.

Aside from the CMA, I also considered other certification such as CFA, CIA among others. But one major factor  that helped me with my decision was that I always envisioned myself as a difference maker, someone who could help senior management towards making proper and timely decisions given the set of alternatives available.

In my professional opinion, CMA has what it takes to improve my skills set in achieving those goals. CMA has a wide scope range that would tackle financial planning, cost accounting, quantitative analysis, financial management, short & long term decision making which are values added towards the organization’s achievement of their goals.

CMA exams are not as costly as other certification programs. It is composed of two parts and may be completed within a year, or even shorter if the candidate is motivated enough. I myself for example right after I earned my MBA, registered in January 2012, start reviewing mid-March, and took the exams in June. Candidates have the option to register for the exams in separate testing windows which enable them to review and prepare in their most convenient way.

The exams are not a walk in the park but rather a very tedious one. I spent 4 hours a day during weekdays (due to work) and at least 6-8 hours during weekends for 3-4 months in order to be prepared on exam day. The preparation time includes refresher in theories and methodologies plus simulation in the exams environment (since exams are computerized and 100 question for 3 hours averaging about 1.8 minutes for every question) which are mixed concepts and problem solving questions.

I am inviting all the young and experienced professionals out there to try the CMA experience to make yourselves a more valuable resource to your organization.

Leo Yatco, CPA, MBA, CMA, is the management accountant of Integra Business Process Solutions, Inc., and a CMA Course Instructor of Insights Financial Review Services, Inc. You can reach him at 

Studying For The Uniform CPA Exam

studying for an examNo matter how old you are or how much you’ve achieved in your career, the prospect of sitting for an exam continues to be a nervewracking idea. Can you remember how nervous you used to get every time your teacher would announce a pop quiz, or when you were about to take final exams? How about the times when you took entrance exams for college?

Every test you ever took in your life was a challenge because it signified whether or not you would be able to move on to the next level.

So imagine just how important the CPA exam is. Whether you pass or not determines whether you are a certified accountant and are therefore able to work as one. It also signifies that you have a thorough understanding of the relevant concepts that will allow you to do your job properly.

The CPA exam consists of four sections, namely, FAR (Financial Accounting and Reporting), AUD (Auditing), REG (Regulation), and BEC (Business Environment and Concepts). You can take these sections in any order; the important thing is that you finish all four within 18 months from the time you receive your first passing mark. Make sure to use your time wisely and try some useful tips to help you while studying for the CPA exam.

1. Organize. Get your study materials in order, and establish a sound schedule which you will follow as you study for the CPA exam. You also need to have a separate notebook because you will want to take notes as you review. Keep those notes handy for when you’re elsewhere, say, waiting to meet someone or standing in a long line at a coffee shop, and read them–much better than lugging around countless books to peruse.

2. Prioritize. You need to start reading a certain chapter. But there’s also that cool new movie you’ve been wanting to catch. At this point, the important question is whether watching the movie is more important to you or if acing the CPA exam is your priority.

3. Take practice tests. Practice tests can help you determine your weak points and which topics you still need to focus on.

4. Be flexible. Sometimes you get to stick to your study schedule, sometimes you don’t. If you’re a very busy person with a lot of responsibilities, emergencies might pop up every now and then. Handle those emergencies if no one else can, and then go right back to studying. There will always be important things that could derail your study schedule. Acknowledge that they could happen, and when they do, remember that all you need to do is to get right back in the saddle and continue reviewing.

5. Enjoy a change of scenery. If you’ve been studying in the same place for months, it might feel like it’s torture every time you have to go there. Get fresh air and a new perspective by studying in different places every now and then.

6. Taking time out to rest is important throughout the entire review process. If you give yourself a few hours each day to study, you should also give yourself regular breaks. You won’t be able to retain any information if you’re already exhausted, and you certainly won’t get any studying done if you wear yourself out to the point of getting sick.

Finally, while you’re studying for the CPA exam, don’t focus your mind on the possibility that you will fail. Yes, that possibility may still exist no matter how hard you prepare. But keep in mind that you always have the option to take it again–and do better!

Small businesses and accountants

bakeryownerSmall business owners are on the rise nowadays, and this shows that more people are ready to seize their future and offer unique products and services. Of course, running a small business is never easy. You have to take care of every single detail: meeting with clients and suppliers, coming up with new concepts for your company, marketing, perhaps even making every single product from scratch. If you have employees, you have to make sure they’re paid properly, that they have all the right benefits, and you need to manage the whole team correctly, too. With all the details that demand the attention of a small business owner, it’s easy to just want to give up, and it’s normal to make mistakes every now and then.

One aspect in which business owners should never ignore is the financial aspect. You started a business in the first place either to break away from the rat race, to do what you really love, and to make a good living out of doing what you love. That involves keeping track of every single cent that comes in and out, paying your taxes on time, and ensuring that your money isn’t running out.

Many small business owners opt to handle their finances by themselves. With the advent of financial software and even financial apps, more people are starting to feel like they have the necessary skill to manage their capital and finances. On a very small scale, such software may be recommended. However, given all the tasks you have to deal with, it is still worthwhile to work with an accountant who can stay on top of your finances. An accountant is your partner in making sure you have the best financial strategy and that you are spending your money wisely, helping you make sure that you’re saving as much money as possible.

An accountant who works with small business owners should know about information that is relevant to small businesses. In addition, he or she should remember that not all people speak accounting jargon, and he or she should therefore be able to explain tax laws and how he or she crunched the numbers in easy-to-understand terms. Most importantly, such an accountant should be willing to work with small businesses and not just with multi-million dollar enterprises. Accountants can help small businesses survive and thrive, which is very good for the economy in the long run.