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Programme aims to avoid retraining of CAs(SA)

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 26 915 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. There are currently 246 TOPP trainees who are on the verge of obtaining the CA(SA) designation.

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. The pass rate in 2006 was 51% and in 2007 it increased to 63%.

The 2007 results for SAICA’s part 11 financial management examinations saw 77 out of 124 candidates receive a pass rate, with the following organisations producing 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.”





Disa Mjikeliso, 30, who hails from King Williams Town is excited and relieved about her new CA(SA) designation. She is one of 77 TOPP programme trainees who qualified this year, and says that she is looking forward to the challenges and living up to the expectations of being part of the profession and SAICA.

Even though the BCom Accounting route was not her first academic choice, Disa is adamant that it is the perfect fit for her. “I joined the IDC TOPP Programme in 2005, and although their programme was fairly new then and we had to learn largely as we went on, my experience there has been fantastic and I have never looked back.”

Another great advantage about TOPP and the IDC, says Disa, is that trainees get to move between departments and ultimately grow their grasp of how the business functions as a whole. “And the fact that the IDC has about 50 qualified CAs(SA) also means that we have continual assistance and mentorship.”

A member of ABASA, Disa adds that her road to success at the IDC was also aided by the fact that she has a mentor who has imparted skills, offered guidance professionally and encouraged her to always reach for the stars.

“I am a huge supporter of the TOPP programme and will encourage all prospective CAs(SA) to consider TOPP and organisations like the IDC, as the nature of the work done is practical and prepares you well for the examinations.”


The industrial Development Corporation of South Africa Limited (the IDC) is a self-financing state owned national development financial institution which provides finance to entrepreneurs engaged in competitive industries. A training contract is a learnership contract for three year and during this time you will serve your traineeship with an ATO, as required by SAICA. The basic term of training contract at the IDC requires minimum hours of work attendance and minimum hours of core experience, at commencement of the training contract for a trainee aspiring to be a Chartered Accountant. If you have successfully completed your Accredited BCom degree plus your CTA studies towards the CA(SA) qualification, you can apply for a training contract with the IDC.

What can I expect whilst on a training contract as a trainee accountant?

  • Theory application as learnt at university for practical business application.
  • A challenging business environment interacting with people at various levels and with various experience.
  • Familiarise yourself with SAICA training regulations.

What skills and characteristics does the IDC look for in potential candidates?

  • A good academic record, integrity, individuality, great team player,
  • a desire to build a career with IDC and an astute understanding of current and emerging business issues, and
  • self-confidence to express innovative ideas and have a passion for the development of our country and the economy.

What does the IDC offer prospective candidates?

  • A competitive salary.
  • Coaching and mentoring to support your development.
  • A challenging environment where you will be exposed to different sectors of the economy.
  • Formal training to assist with the development of your professional competencies as required by MICA, and on-the-job coaching to hone your technical competencies.
  • Sufficient study leave to prepare for the board examinations.

To download applications go to www.idc.co.za




With only 1 TOPP trainee in 1997, the Standard Bank Topp Programme has grown in leaps and bounds now recruiting 15 trainees annually. As one of South Africa’s leading banking and financial services groups with a global presence in countries both inside as well as outside Africa, this growth is significant as training outside of public practice is fast becoming an attractive option for many aspirant CAs(SA).

Group Financial Director August van Heerden, says that this success is by no means a surprise as the Group had committed itself to develop and nurture a more knowledgeable and committed young workforce. “In 2006 we invested R11 million in the TOPP programme and spent R1.3 million on training related costs for TOPP trainees, and our return on investment will always be the value our trainees bring to the group,” says van Heerden.

Simon Ridley, Chief Financial Officer agrees and says: “More than 80% of our trainees who have completed their training contract opt to continue working for the groups, and this tells us that our key success factor our internal business processes.”

At Standard Bank, each of our trainees is assigned a qualified CA(SA) who serves as an assessor. The assessor meets with the trainee at regular intervals to discuss the trainee’s progress and assists with his or her personal development and difficulties that they may be experiencing. The assessor can impart their experience and knowledge to the trainee as well as support and advise them through any problems and challenges. The assessor also offers guidance with respect to career planning and future goals.

Another key difference in the STD Bank programme is that trainees rotate to all areas of the bank during their three year training period.

So while the trainee acquires practical experience in the banking environment, the character, nature and personality of the individual is also observed. otations will then be vigilantly planned taking into account the trainee’s specific development areas, strengths and weaknesses to enable the trainee to gain the depth and quality of experience in line with SAICA’s requirements as well as the trainees’ personal growth needs.

Rotations last on average three to four months and includes the following business areas; Group Financial Accounting, Group Tax, Corporate Investment Banking Tax, Internal Audit, Structured Finance, Treasury, Derivatives Trading, Stanbic Africa, CIB Credit, Corporate Finance, Project Finance, CIB Financial Control, Central Finance, Margin Management, Treasury Derivatives Support, CIB Private Equity, Global Markets Research and Corporate Governance.

Trainees have the opportunity to go on secondment to the Group’s global operations including Europe, Asia and other areas within our continent. This provides the trainee with a global outlook of the Group.

It is also encouraged very early on in the trainees’ career that they are exposed to senior management of the bank, so that at the end of their training contract they will have a clear picture of which area within the Group they would like to continue to work in. This ensures job satisfaction, retaining talent, and getting ‘the right person for the right job’.

The TOPP trainees are a close knit group and have taken it upon themselves to improve and enhance the TOPP programme by forming a diverse range of committees to which trainees can choose to belong. These include: social responsibility, entertainment, sport and information technology. There are also regular and enjoyable teambuilding activities.

The bank also ensures that the trainee enjoys as many benefits as possible by ensuring that they receive:

  1. A highly competitive and market-related salary;
  2. Attractive study and normal leave;
  3. Financial assistance for further studies (e.g. CFA, CIMA, CAIA);
  4. Management and personal skills training;
  5. All corporate benefits offered to full time employees;
  6. Bonuses and increases that are awarded at least annually and are based on individual performance as well as that of the Standard Bank Group; and
  7. An edge over CA’s(SA) who qualified the TIPP route and then left the profession, as they would have already established themselves in the company.

The philosophy of the Standard Bank TOPP programme is to attract high calibre individuals and help trainees’ develop business acumen, life skills and professional and ethical values. It is apparent that Standard Bank invests a great deal of resources in developing a well rounded, confident and diverse set of Chartered Accountants that will not only add value to the company, but their skills will ultimately contribute towards the upliftment of the South African economy as a whole. Standard Bank will continue with its efforts to attract, develop and retain TOPP talent in the next decade!