Hiring and developing financial talent in Asia

August 4, 201512:46 pm1387 views
Hiring and developing financial talent in Asia
Hiring and developing financial talent in Asia

Harvey Nash, the global executive search and leadership services firm, recently appointed Nick Neal to lead its finance practice across Asia-Pacific. In this article Nick shares his thoughts on how companies can recruit and manage top finance talent in the region.  

Over recent years, Asia Pacific has been one of the most active regions for financial recruitment, due to the region’s many strong and growing economies and financial hubs. There has been considerable relocation of regional head offices between Hong Kong and Singapore in particular, creating a change in market demands, affecting salary levels and changing the financial employment landscapes in both countries.

Many organisations expect the finance function to influence strategic business decisions and to contribute directly to the top line. The importance of a good recruitment process in attracting the best finance talent should not be underestimated. Companies need to invest time in their recruitment process in the current market to ensure they identify the best talent available.

Finance function challenges

Many organisations are offshoring accounting functions to countries such as China, India and the Philippines, and outsourcing entire accounting processes to Business Process Outsourcers. There can be little doubt that these shifts are having an impact on finance teams across the rest of the region. However, roles that partner country and regional business operations, such as financial planning and analysis, remain in-market. It is these roles where we see the highest demand for candidates.

Most in demand skillsets for finance professionals

The key challenges facing hiring managers are (in descending order):

  1. Identifying true finance business partners – those with a high level of commercial acumen
  2. Hiring candidates that can communicate, present and build credible relationships within the business
  3. Finding the cultural fit for qualities, characteristics and values.

Source: Harvey Nash Senior Finance Survey 2014

For regions like Asia-Pacific, international accounting qualifications are naturally of high value, but experience working across multiple functions and building relationships with the leadership teams carry even more weight. Heads of business expect the finance function to contribute and make an impact. Candidates with strong commercial and business knowledge will need to be able to demonstrate their ability to add value to the business heads and key decision makers to immediately stand out from the rest. Finance professionals that can communicate with non-financial people and demonstrate the ability to develop relationships are in higher demand.

As with most roles, there are a few essential areas of a candidate’s history to focus on:

  • Have they displayed clear career progression stability in previous roles?
  • Can they demonstrate how they have contributed to the business?

The answers to these questions can help identify if a candidate has long-term career objectives and if they have been taking the appropriate steps to achieve them. Interviews are important to ascertain interpersonal and relationship building ability.

The importance of the recruitment process

Identifying, and then engaging with, appropriate candidates is a time-consuming process, leading many companies to partner with a specialist finance recruiter. Offering a professional and effective recruitment process serves to develop an organisation’s brand and can be the difference between securing and losing a preferred candidate.

We still find that many finance professionals (more than 68%, as highlighted in our Harvey Nash Senior Finance Survey 2014 results) make hiring decisions based on gut feeling that they have found the best candidate, with less than 15% relying on assessment or tests to influence their decision.

Once a suitable candidate is found, having a clear organisational and reporting structure is essential in keeping them engaged, as this gives the employee a defined position within the organisation. Employers also need to provide clear internal career development strategies. A thought-out on-boarding process, detailed job description and clearly communicated expectations means employees know their responsibilities and ensures they can be managed, trained and rewarded based on their performance. If targets have been met, then regular recognition and promotion is the next step to keeping employees engaged and motivated.

In general, the financial jobs market in Asia Pacific is more active and a client-driven environment. Companies need to spend time ensuring they not only put in place good recruitment strategies to find and engage the best talent available, but also develop skills internally over the longer-term to keep employees motivated and engaged.

 – Nick Neal is the Associate Director of the Finance Practice for Harvey Nash in Asia-Pacific

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