GDP in Singapore is expected to reach between 3% and 4% in 2022, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Growth in the region has largely been driven by increased domestic demand due to the easing of border shutdowns and COVID-19-related restrictions. We have seen strong hiring in finance and accounting this year.
The talent landscape in Singapore (like much of APAC) has, however, evolved. The desire for flexibility from candidates has changed the dynamics of the jobs market while hybrid working has fast become the new normal. Career development opportunities have also become a key factor among finance candidates evaluating new roles. We have also seen more companies strengthening efforts in talent development and talent management to retain their key talent.
In this market update, we explore hiring and industry trends across finance & accounting functions in Singapore.
Hot skills in finance & accounting functions in Singapore
Businesses have been adopting a more data-driven approach to driving growth this year. We have seen a growing demand for data analytics expertise as a result. We are seeing trends of hiring for Financial Planning and Analysis, Commercial Finance and Finance Business Partnering professionals who have exposure in data analytics tools like Tableau, Python, SAS, QlikView and R Programming. With such tools, it can help organisations better forecast business changes which in turn able to assist the business to make better strategic decisions for recovery.
Supply chain finance
The ongoing pandemic has affected global supply chains. This has shed light on the need for supply chain finance talent who can partner with supply chain leaders to work on business cases and drive operational excellence as well as build contingency supply chain plans.
The CFO role is broadening and is increasingly operating more like that of a COO. In mid-sized companies, we are seeing the trend of hiring CFOs with a skillset in strategic planning, procurement, IT and legal. We are witnessing CFOs acting as the second-in-command after the CEO and leading the organisation’s transformation.
Environment, social and governance (ESG)
Local regulators have strengthened requirements around ESG following concerns about the impact that corporations are having on the environment. As more organisations formulate (and implement) their ESG strategies, there has been an increase in demand for related roles such as ESG reporting specialists, ESG risk officers as well as ESG regulatory reporting roles.
Finance transformation and robotic process automation (RPA)
More organisations have been embarking on finance transformation initiatives to drive process and system improvements. There continues to be a demand for professionals with demonstrated experience in driving and leading finance transformation projects relating to process improvements.
As automation is the key to driving efficiency and effectiveness, we have observed a strong push for robotic process automation (RPA) in finance and transactional accounting work. We find accounting professionals with experience in implementing RPA within a large organisation with a significant number of transactional flows are in high demand.
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A)
A steady stream of investments in Singapore has led to an increase in M&A transactions this year.
We have seen companies making more strategic acquisitions of businesses that are either similar, or upstream or downstream within the same sector. As a result, we have seen an increase in demand for individuals with good experience in M&A/corporate finance function.
Enterprise risk management
The need to manage business risk was brought to the fore during the pandemic. This, coupled with rapidly evolving business, has led to strong demand for candidates with experience in several risk areas such as enterprise risk, business continuity planning risk and other corporate risks functions.
Industries with strong finance hiring
We have seen an increase in hiring in the real estate sector. There has been an increase in hiring in M&A and investments functions as real estate firms look into acquiring new assets in the region. There has also been more hiring for corporate reporting and controllership roles within this sector.
Healthcare is another sector with strong hiring activities. Due to high demand in healthcare services, local public healthcare groups and private healthcare service providers had to strengthen their support functions like finance as well as drive finance transformational projects to support the ever-increasing business needs. We also saw a rise in pharmaceuticals, medical devices and life sciences multinationals hiring top finance talent to support and drive commercial decisions in view of a highly competitive business environment as we emerge from the pandemic.
The technology industry remains a sector with strong finance hiring in the early part of this year. However, in recent months the industry has seen a string of layoffs in the face of uncertain economic conditions and challenges in fundraising. Nevertheless, there has still been a steady level of hiring activities within the technology infrastructure space.
The strong demand for 5G, data centres and cloud services has led to a growth in the semiconductors industry. We see a healthy level of hiring within this sector.
Recruiting for talent: What do candidates look for in a company?
Candidates have been a lot more selective in the opportunities they are exploring this year, and this sentiment is expected to continue into 2023. This follows the cautious approach that was taken by a lot of candidates when the pandemic caused an uncertain economic outlook.
We have examined the factors that attract candidates to an organisation as they look for new job opportunities. A strong company culture with effective leadership is a critical component in attracting top talent and acts as a magnet to retain good employees. We have also seen companies strengthening their talent retention programmes to retain their top talent. This includes giving attractive long-term incentives as part of the compensation package.
1. Higher expectations for compensation
Compensation expectations from candidates across Singapore have increased significantly over the last 12 months. This is especially true for candidates with niche skillsets that are highly sought after.
2. More flexibility in work arrangements
Hybrid work arrangements and flexibility in how and where people work has become the norm since the pandemic. Employees can save time commuting and can manage work more effectively without compromising on their personal time and this is driving demand for flexibility. The future of work will be centered around flexibility and choice. If companies want to attract and retain top talent, employers would need to offer a flexible work model that caters to individual candidate and employee work styles.
3. Employee well-being
The pandemic has reemphasised the importance of employee well-being. It has become an important factor for jobseekers as they feel more valued when their needs are met at all levels including from a mental health as well as financial perspective. We have also found that organisations that have focused on employee mental and emotional well-being have happier and more productive employees.
4. Career development and growth opportunities
Career development and learning opportunities are key factors that candidates look at in evaluating career opportunities. With the ongoing competition for talent especially for niche roles, this should be favourable news to businesses as it means they can train employees to ensure they have the skillsets required for the future of work. Organisations with comprehensive learning and development programmes, will find it much easier to not just attract, but retain talent. Research from LinkedIn revealed that 94% of employees would stay with a company longer if that employer showed commitment to helping them learn.
Amidst a challenging global economic environment, high inflation as well as geopolitical tensions, we anticipate hiring sentiments will be affected in the coming months. More companies may look into restructuring in anticipation of a more challenging global economy. Despite this, there will still be a good demand for finance talent as companies transform and position for growth in the year ahead.
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