Hong Kong’s high demand but short supply of highly-skilled accountancy and finance talent has led to higher salary expectations from job seekers, which cannot always be met by employers. According to a recent release by Hays, this has created disconnect between employers and candidates in the recruitment market.
Hays’ latest Hays Quarterly Report of skills in demand explained that Hong Kong is facing a shortage of highly-skilled and experienced accountants and there are vacancies that need to be filled. This is leading to continuous wage pressure from candidates.
As Dean Stallard, Regional Director of Hays in Hong Kong explains, employers will only go so far in their efforts to attract and retain accountancy and finance talent. “Employers maintain strict budgets around salary banding for various positions,” he said.
Although employers will offer a competitive salary, but candidates in demand often expect to be paid even more, and so accountants are not always receiving the salary increases they want.
“There needs to be some understanding that employers cannot continuously increase salaries so that candidate and employer expectations can move closer together,” suggested Dean.
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In terms of the accountancy and finance skills in demand right now, Dean says that increased regulation is driving strong hiring activity for HKMA regulatory reporting accountants. “We expect demand for this skill set at all levels from officers to vice presidents to remain strong this quarter,” he said.
He also says that product controllers are making a comeback in Hong Kong. “The roles being recruited are new headcount. After the global financial crisis, a number of banks cut their product control roles or off-shored them to save money. Recently though, banks are scouting for product controllers, especially in the equities space. It is a tough search as many product controllers moved on when demand dropped off for their skills to instead take up roles in risk, compliance and audit. We predict this growth in demand will continue over the coming quarter.”
In the commerce and industry space, finance managers with three years of Big 4 experience continue to be in high demand. “We expect this demand to continue over the next fiscal year,” Dean says. “Candidates who also have two years of commercial experience to add to the mix are highly sought after and can move across industries.
“We have seen a huge spike in demand for candidates with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) experience. Insurance firms are looking for candidates with regulatory reporting experience as they start to make the necessary changes to daily accounting requirements to comply with IFRS rules. Managers and senior managers are in particular demand to lead IFRS implementations.
“Immediately available HKMA regulatory reporting and product control candidates are also needed for six to 12 month projects. As banks grow they continue to have ongoing projects that run parallel to their reporting teams,” he said.
Another trend of Hong Kong’s accountants
In another trend, Dean says that accountancy professionals in Hong Kong are more aware of the need to have a strong professional public profile.
“More candidates are setting up profiles on LinkedIn to make themselves visible to employers and recruiters. The market is job rich and candidates can consider a number of positions, but employers are increasingly selective meaning that they will wait for up to six months to select the right candidate.”
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