Singapore to be a top hirer of accounting, finance staff

SINGAPORE will be one of the world's most active hiring markets for accountants and finance professionals in the first half of this year, a new survey shows. The hot jobs include auditing, compliance and fighting money laundering, according to the Robert Half 2014 Asia Salary Guide released yesterday.

It found that 45 per cent of Singapore companies will hire more finance and accounting professionals in the first six months of the year. Only mainland China, Brazil and Hong Kong will see more active hiring during this period.

Robert Half specialises in the recruitment of accounting, finance, banking and technology professionals.

More than 400 C-level executives were polled in Singapore out of a total of 4,000 worldwide across 17 countries.

The findings are in line with a similar study done by recruitment firm Astbury Marsden, which found that job market confidence has risen in Singapore amid strong growth in new roles in areas such as governance, risk and compliance, internal audit, and management consulting.

Ms Stella Tang, director of Robert Half Singapore, said the most active hirers will be the small and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees.

The survey found that 48 per cent of small companies and 46 per cent of medium-sized companies plan to hire, compared with 31 per cent of large firms.

The most popular jobs are in internal audit and tax, with both industries expecting a salary rise of up to 9 per cent, depending on the job title, compared with last year.

Top salaries can go up to $110,000 for auditors, for example, while a tax analyst's top salary can be up to $100,000.

Dr Ernest Kan, president of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, said: "Accounting firms have attrition, and those staff will end up in the commerce sectors. If they can get a 9 per cent salary increase, there will be more pressure on accounting firms."

He added that demand for these roles is very healthy, since the Singapore Exchange has been pushing for higher governance quality for listed firms.

However, Dr Kan noted that survey did not include accounting firms such as the Big Four.

With the bulk of fresh graduates heading to the Big Four, smaller firms struggle to hire local graduates, he said.

Singapore is one of only three places where no firm plans to shrink its accounting and finance headcount in the first six months of this year.

The others are the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong.

Other jobs where staff are sought after are in compliance and anti-money laundering, with a salary increase of up to 19 per cent, and information technology directors with a salary increase of up to 10 per cent, compared with a year ago.

The survey also found that 37 per cent of firms will lift bonuses this year.

Dr Kan said: "Singapore ended on a high note last year, with decent gross domestic product growth so this survey probably reflects what Singapore will experience in 2014. We are positive about the employment market."

Source: Straits Times, 12 Mar 2014