Singapore's Accountants Jump to Banks

The rising pay in Singapore's booming financial sector is attracting accountants from other sectors, says the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ICPAS).


Salary packages within the finance and accounting sector in Singapore are among the most competitive in the region, with employees enjoying pay raises and bonuses last year, reveals ICPAS. However, despite the better outlook for salaries, finance professionals are now expecting more from their jobs as the employment market continues to heat up. Employers need to proactively address this trend, or risk losing their best people to banks, warns ICPAS.


These findings are based on data collected from Robert Half’s two new salary surveys. The 2010/2011 Asia-Pacific Finance & Accounting Salary Guide (“FA”), launched in partnership with ICPAS, interviewed 2,599 finance and accounting professionals across Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore (296 respondents). The 2010/2011 Asia-Pacific Banking & Financial Services Salary Guide (“FS”) interviewed 906 banking and financial services professionals across Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore (182 respondents). Both surveys were conducted between 24 March and 8 April this year.


In Singapore, a large number of finance professionals (FA 43%; FS 52%) enjoyed salary rises over the past 12 months as the economy emerged from the downturn and companies returned to the growth track. The majority also received a bonus last year (FA 75%; FS 71%), and with the promise of an even stronger economy in the current year, are confident of another bonus payout in 2010 (FA 77%; FS 78%).


However, despite the increase in salary levels, a significant number of Singapore respondents are still not entirely satisfied with their remuneration packages, claiming that they were neither fair nor in line with the market (FA 40%; FS 46%).


They were also the least likely to negotiate their pay or benefit packages compared to their Asia-Pacific peers, and many never had a salary negotiation conversation with their employer (FA 51%; FS 39%). An overwhelming number of respondents (FA 72%; FS 79%) also believed it was necessary to switch jobs in order to gain greater leverage over salary negotiations, underscoring a low level of commitment and loyalty to their organisations.


Indeed, on top of monetary compensation, other benefits feature high on their priorities list. For example, when asked what would influence their decision to accept a slightly lower salary, the majority of FS employees (FS 30%) cited “fast-tracked career progression” as the main factor while most FA employees (FA 41%) voted for flexible hours. Finance professionals in Singapore, in general, also placed a high premium on training and development, identifying leadership and management skills (FA 52%; FS 53%) as the most critical type of training in the requisition of the necessary skills to take on more challenging positions and to move up the ranks within their organisations.


The surveys also found that, despite the tentative economic recovery last year, finance professionals in the region worked longer than the standard 40-hour week, with those in Singapore the most likely to do so. More than two-thirds of the respondents in Singapore (FA 63%; FS 69%) put in more than 46 hours of work in a week, while almost half of the respondents (FA 43%; FS 49%) said they often or always felt pressured to work additional hours.


“Only by growing and nurturing their best talent could productivity increase and help drive the long-term growth and success of the organisation. This is something that companies need to get their minds around as they develop a more sustainable, long-term approach to employee retention. Last but not least, open and honest communication between employers and employees is vital because only then can both parties attempt to close the expectations gap,” remarks Tim Hird, director of Robert Half Singapore.

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