Solid management skills, which include leadership, communication, strategic thinking and change management skills, have been selected by ASEAN accounting and finance professionals to be the most critical in navigating change in the next five years, according to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) survey of their members in the ASEAN region.
ACCA’s inaugural ASEAN Talent Mobility study surveyed a total of 172 accounting and finance professionals in May over a one-month period throughout the ASEAN region – namely, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Respondents included C-suite executives, middle-level managers and executives, representing a range of industries.
More importance is being placed on management skills over technical skills such as knowledge of cross-border operations or even technology-based skillsets including the understanding of social, mobile and cloud technologies and data analytics.
“It is interesting to note that beyond the hard skills needed to allay the threat of technology, professionals are recognizing that management skills encompass a wider range of softer skillsets and quotients that can help to contribute to their success in this modern business landscape,” says Leong Soo Yee, Director – Asia Pacific, ACCA.
On the back of the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) six months on, the survey sheds light on the perceptions of finance and accounting professionals on the impact of the major drivers of change in the region at a time when technology is poised to continue revolutionizing the industry in order to remain relevant and competitive in the marketplace.
Impact of technology
Amidst the growing talk of robots infiltrating industries and possibly threatening jobs, 74 per cent of ASEAN accounting and finance professionals affirmed the fact that their organizations are keeping up with the adoption of technology to improve efficiency and productivity.
While 44 per cent believed that their role will not be replaced by increasingly advanced technology, more than a third of these professionals expressed concern that their role could be replaced in the next five years by more advanced technologies.
This evidences that most respondents (who are from large organizations in Singapore) are gearing themselves well for the changes in the technological environment while more than a third is only beginning to see the risks that these changes pose. This indicates that more will need to be done to inform accounting and finance professionals of advancing technologies and their impact on their work environment.
Impact of AEC
Fifty-five per cent of accounting and finance professionals agreed that the AEC will ensure a freer flow of professional services and skilled labour, with 81 per cent of professionals indicating that they were keen to work in an ASEAN country in their related field if given the opportunity to do so.
This reflects the growing regional mindset of accounting and finance professionals in ASEAN. However, one significant barrier to regionalisation is an inadequate understanding of the regulatory environments of other ASEAN countries. Organizations in ASEAN could take the cue and provide more information, both online and in various (face-to-face) events, to inform accounting and finance professionals of the regulations in other ASEAN countries to identify challenges as well as opportunities.
Tackling talent attraction and development challenges
AEC aside, the challenge of attracting talent in the accountancy sector continues to be a vexing problem for the majority (70 per cent) of respondents; with the top barriers to attraction being poor monetary incentives, long working hours and slow career progression in both ASEAN and Singapore specifically.
Yet, not all is bleak as professionals recognize the good that organizations have been doing to attract and develop talent – namely, providing good rewards and recognition, a strong corporate identity, a clear path for career progression and a strong focus on work-life balance.
When it comes to talent development, ASEAN organizations rely mostly on mentoring and coaching, workshops and seminars and regular reviews and evaluation. On the other hand, employees’ expectations of their personal development and growth organization include more thorough performance management systems, mentoring and coaching programmes, and special frameworks for high performers.
“In a market that is plagued with a perpetual talent shortage and high turnover rates, there are definite areas for improvement. Organizations in ASEAN and Singapore need to re-consider their efforts in attracting and developing talent in order to ensure smooth business continuity and to compete in highly challenging business conditions,” says Leong.