If you suddenly stop working tomorrow, who would get your job? This was the question 1,256 CFOs and Finance Directors from 17 countries were asked by specialist recruitment firm Robert Half, 150 of which were from Singapore companies.
The survey found only 14 percent of finance leaders expect the job to go to a local internal candidate. The vast majority of Singapore finance leaders favour employing someone from outside the company (45 percent) or bringing in someone from another country who works for the same company (26 percent).
Singapore finance leaders are the least likely of any of the countries surveyed to favour a local internal hire as a replacement for the top job, followed by Switzerland (16 percent) and Hong Kong (17 percent). The global average favouring an internal hire was 28 percent.
The survey found deputies and internal talent are also likely to be overlooked when it comes to planned successions.
When asked if they had identified a successor, 44 percent say they had yet to do so. When asked why no successor has been identified, the most common response is that the internal team lacked the talent to do the job (44 percent).
Stella Tang, Director of Robert Half in Singapore, said it is part of the responsibilities of a leader to groom a successor but many finance leaders in Singapore are not doing it.
“Finance leaders say their internal team lacks talent, but one in three (30 percent) claim they lack time to develop and mentor their teams. They feel more comfortable bringing in someone from outside the organisation who already has the skills and experience in preference to training the people working for them. This puts internal candidates at a disadvantage."
Tang notes that creating a sustainable and reliable pipeline of talent to meet future leadership needs can only happen when companies spend time grooming employees from within.
Tang offers some advice for candidates eyeing that lucrative top position.
First, relying solely on tenure does not work in your favour anymore – it is your ability to innovate and contribute that matters.
Second, deputies and professionals should take the initiative to develop new skills, especially soft skills such as communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, and not wait for their superior to guide them.
Third, if the way ahead is blocked then look elsewhere – there are opportunities available and talented finance professionals who move to another organisation often enjoy healthy salary increases.