When TOPP was relaunched in 2006, it was done with the express intention of preparing CAs(SA) for successful careers in commerce and industry. SAICA noted that, when CAs(SA) left public practice to take up positions in commerce and industry, they often had to undergo retraining. TOPP sought to present a solution to this problem.
As SAICA’s Project Director for Training Adri Kleinhans put it, “…the traditional [TIPP] 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.”
According to this press release from SAICA, there were 246 TOPP trainees on the cusp of obtaining their CA(SA) designation at the time of publication in 2008. Today, there are many, many more.
TOPP is an increasingly popular alternative route for CAs(SA) in training. Read more to find out if this is the right qualifying program for you.
What are TIPP and TOPP programs?
TIPP stands for Training Inside Public Practice. Historically, it’s the more conventional auditing route that one might take towards qualifying as a CA(SA). TIPP is generally offered by large accounting and auditing firms, like the Big 4.
TOPP stands for Training Outside Public Practice. TOPP is the financial management training route that was created to avoid retraining CAs(SA) for successful careers in commerce and industry. It is typically offered by leading companies such as Investec, Shoprite Checkers, FirstRand, Nedbank and, of course, VAT IT.
Although the terms “TIPP” and “TOPP” are still in circulation, the industry is moving towards more transparent terms like public practice and public sector (TIPP) and commerce and industry (TOPP).
TOPP is on the rise
According to this 2021 article by AGA(SA) Chantal Potgieter, the commerce and industry sectors are the fastest-growing sectors for SAICA training contracts. Following the introduction of the CA2025 initiative, SAICA expects demand from this industry to grow even more.
Demand from the commerce and industry sectors for CAs(SA) who specialised in financial management and business principles was the reason that TOPP was established in the first place. Now, it appears as though TOPP continues to be a top commodity.
What can I expect from TOPP?
At the moment, approximately 14% of all SAICA training offices are in the commerce and industry sectors. Banks only make up 1% of these, busting the myth that TOPP automatically means signing up for a career in banking. TOPP training typically prepares aspiring CAs(SA) for career opportunities in the spheres of banking, insurance, manufacturing, mining, and more.
At a practical level, TOPP training will expose you to business environments where you will quickly gain hands-on experience and multidisciplinary skills. The electives for TOPP training offices vary from financial management and management decision-making to internal audit and taxation.
It comes as no surprise that this wealth of practical experience is extremely attractive to prospective employers. TOPP sets CAs(SA) up for plenty of career opportunities both at home and abroad.
TOPP offices typically train their CAs(SA) with the overview of retaining them within the company. As such, 90% of trainees qualify as permanent employees in their offices once training has been completed.
Additionally, TOPP programs will see you working alongside instead of underneath your office’s leaders. If you’re more interested in a lateral approach to gaining valuable business skills, then TOPP might be for you.
Both TOPP and TIPP programs will prepare aspirants for a successful career as a CA(SA). As an alternative route which was specifically designed to prepare trainee CAs(SA) for a career in industry or commerce, TOPP has proven to be an increasingly popular choice for aspiring accountants.