5 Key Trends in Singapore’s Accounting Sector for 2017

March 2, 20178:30 am1810 views

With the uncertainty in the global market, rising interest rates and a decline in domestic consumption and investments, the Singapore economy is bracing itself for a slower growth in 2017.

A slowing economy has kept accounting and finance professionals in Singapore on their toes over the recent months. Organisations continue to be under increasing pressure to streamline operations, and disruptive technologies are changing the way industry functions – requiring them to be more agile and adaptable, and to become more efficient with fewer resources.

Despite these challenges, we have observed some positive trends in the accounting and finance sector in Singapore, these are:

1. Shared Services Scenario in Singapore

Large MNC conglomerates have been moving out their Accounting Shared Services overseas to lower cost countries such as India, Manila and Malaysia. Setting up an operational finance team in China solely for the purpose of cost savings has become less appealing due to the rising labour costs.

The local accounting workforce – who have seen the rise and decline of shared services in Singapore are consciously shifting out of operational accounting functions such as AP/AR, GL, Fixed Asset, Inventory and Costing. Singapore, Hong Kong and most recently China, are now the preferred countries for reporting and analysis functional support, which brings us to the next point.

2. The Evolving Role of Accounting Professionals

Accounting has been rapidly changing from that of a bean-counter to the more technically competent and complex finance partner, whose responsibility now is to make sense of the business environment.

More MNC organisations are starting to take on accounting professionals to perform non-operational functions (for e.g. FP&A, Tax, and Pricing) at much earlier stages of their career compared to 5 years ago. Nonetheless, resume applications for these roles still remain highly competitive – with an increasing demand for candidates with strong interpersonal skills and out-of-the-box thinking.

A good indicator of this rising trend is what happens behind closed doors during the job interviews: hiring managers are increasingly spending more time evaluating candidates based on their soft skills and less on technical proficiency. Candidates are also being screened rigorously for their people skills to determine the cultural fit of the new hire, which they believe is critical in contributing to overall productivity.

See: Accounting Professionals in Singapore Can Expect Shift towards More Strategic and Analytical Roles

Despite the gloomy forecasted by the media, hiring remains strong and we continue to see a high demand pressure for quality accounting and finance talent. The following Infographic encapsulates some of the top accounting skills and jobs in demand for 2017.Randstad Insights - Singapore accounting and finance industry overview

3. Global Trends and their Impact

The global economy has been dampened by the “oil crisis” since 2015 leading up to the collapse of the shipping giant Hanjin. Furthermore, uncertainty in the political environment from the aftermath of Brexit and the US elections has made it more challenging to anticipate trading relations between countries.

We observed significant spike in demand for M&A specialists from cash-rich organisations to evaluate deals and joint ventures for the purpose of either growth or survival. In 2017, experts in post-acquisition process integration activities will be highly sought-after as firms slow down purchases and push in a bid to see returns.

4. Influx of New Start-up Players

The influx of start-up companies has also brought about a significant change in hiring and talent trends in the recent years. These companies reputedly started the buzzword “Fourth Industrial Revolution” – brought on by the “Uberization” or disruption of traditional business models.

In the finance and fintech sectors, the start-up scene has blossomed into a plethora of alternative business models including “Last mile delivery logistics”, “E-Wallets”, “P2P Lending” and “crowd-funding/crowd-sourcing”.

The Singapore government in its pursuit of becoming a Smart Nation has done a fantastic job in attracting the major start-up and tech companies to establish their regional offices here. Locally, we already see prominent brands such as Grab, Uber, Lazada/Alibaba, Groupon, Netflix, Google, Facebook and Amazon operating at full capacity, along with a multitude of IT venture capital firms looking for deals here.

Key players such as Alibaba, Uber, Grab and Netflix, with their massive war-chests, have spared no expense in getting the most qualified finance talent. Competition for these high calibre finance candidates has intensified as a result, and we are seeing more and more jobs being filled by accounting and finance professionals who are not just technically sound, but also IT savvy and creative thinkers.

5. More Work to be done

The world’s ability to acquire data has exploded exponentially in the last 5 to 6 years. Businesses around the world are still playing catch-up to identify and analyse which data points are relevant and important to gain competitive edge.

For firms that do not have the luxury of setting up functional departments to handle data analysis, we observed that more accounting professionals, specifically in the FP&A department, have also taken on data analytics as a part of their role.

The natural questioning ability of accounting professionals (possibly acquired during their audit stints), coupled with their proficiency of Excel modelling, has enabled them to transit into this new function quite easily. The increased focus on data analysis has also allowed organisations to finally bridge the relationship gap between business data and revenue trends.

Author credit: Daniel Goh, Manager, Accounting & Finance, Randstad Singapore

Also read: Singapore Finance and Accounting Industry Outlook for 2017

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