The following report provides an update on the key trends that we have observed within the Accounting & Finance job market in Hong Kong, Singapore and China. It identifies emerging themes across various industries and details the major factors impacting hiring and talent movement.
Despite a tough economic outlook at the beginning of the year, Hong Kong’s economy continued to expand in the third quarter of 2017 by 3.6% over a year earlier. This marked the fourth consecutive quarter of above-trend economic growth. The expansion can be attributed to improving retail sales, a rebound in mainland tourist arrivals and strong global trade.
While this does not have an immediate effect on the job market, increased hiring activity has been observed in the second and third quarters of this year. The majority of new recruits have been replacement hires, with less than 10% being newly created headcounts from the expansion of existing businesses or newly established regional offices in Hong Kong.
Across the region, financial planning & analysis and business partnering professionals have continued to be in demand, particularly those with expertise in streamlining business processes and implementing systems. There has been less hiring in specialist functions such as Internal Audit, Tax and Treasury in the first three quarters of 2017, while demand for management level positions at the director and C-suite level has been steady.
Regardless of the type of role, from the hiring managers’ point of view, as the China market grows steadily, and daily interaction with local Chinese offices and business partners continues to increase, trilingual candidates are increasingly preferred.
It is expected that the job market in Hong Kong will remain stable in the next six months, but talent requirements are continuously changing. It is becoming the norm that accounting & finance professionals should be commercially aware, able to manage increasingly complex and sophisticated reporting, that is enabled by improved systems and business intelligence tools, and be able to support the business beyond their basic financial reporting, statutory and compliance requirements.
Minna Kwok, Associate Director, Profile Search & Selection
The Singapore economy grew by 6.3% in the third quarter of 2017, which is much higher than the 2.4% recorded in the second quarter of this year.
We have found hiring activity to be most active at the mid to senior-level in the first three quarters of this year. Having said that, companies are still rendering roles redundant as part of their restructuring activities. Some of the contributing factors include post-merger consolidation and internal restructuring. We have also observed that more organisations are segmenting APAC functions into smaller regions, such as North Asia, SEA and ANZ.
Employment within the service sector has grown much faster in the third quarter of 2017, compared to the first two quarters of this year and the same period a year ago. In particular, we have seen an increase in recruitment in professional services, information & communications, administrative & support services, finance & insurance and accommodation.
In terms of roles, we have seen an increase in hiring for specialist positions such as indirect tax and transfer pricing, pricing and profitability. There are also many more roles relating to data analytics, IT audit and cyber security due to the recent advances in technology.
From a skills perspective, professionals with expertise in US GAAP, including revenue recognition, revenue accounting and lease accounting, continue to be sought after by companies. This is in line with the implementation of new revenue recognition and lease accounting standards. In addition, there continues to be strong demand for commercially astute accounting & finance professionals who are proficient in business intelligence tools and experienced in providing predictive analytics to support strategic business decisions.
There has also been an increased emphasis on soft skills as part of the hiring criteria of late. Some of the critical soft skills that clients are now requiring of their new hires include stakeholder engagement, learning agility, ability to drive and manage change as well as critical thinking.
As we look to the future, retention of good quality employees will be top of mind for hiring managers. The trend of workers moving between jobs for shorter stints of time is on the rise in the Asia Pacific region, particularly among millennials and, as a result, employers will pay closer attention to employee engagement efforts.
For the rest of the year and into 2018, GDP growth in Singapore’s major trading partners is expected to remain firm, but could slow down slightly as the global economic recovery enters a more mature phase.
Digital, healthcare and technology sectors will be the ones to watch in the year ahead, where hiring will continue to be strong.
Yvonne Goh, Regional Director and Joanne Hoo, Associate Director, Profile Search & Selection
The Chinese economy grew 6.8% in the third quarter of 2017, slowing slightly from the previous quarter but still above the government’s full-year target of around 6.5% for 2017. Much of this growth can be attributed to strong retail sales and rapid household spending.
China’s solid economic landscape has had a remarkable effect on its job market. China’s unemployment rate stood at 3.95% in the third quarter of 2017, far better than the average 4.11% recorded from 2002 until 2017. 10.97 million new jobs have been created in China since the beginning of the year to the end of the third quarter, an increase of 300,000 compared to 2016.
With the rise of the financial technology sector, also known as fintech, and government support in this area, start-ups as well as established global financial institutions have been investing heavily in their technological capabilities in China. With China State Council’s recent announcement that foreign firms are now able to apply for RBM clearing licenses in China through the Central Bank, this will enable debit and credit card issuers a head start. With this in mind and as a relatively young industry, and moreover one that is on the rise, the financial technology space is expected to face a shortage of talent in the future. As a result, accounting & finance professionals with relevant industry experience in this area will be highly sought after in the year ahead.
Across the region, financial planning & analysis professionals with skills in revenue management have been in great demand this year. In today’s ever-changing and fluctuating market, companies are well aware that they must continually optimise their operations in order to achieve consistent profitability. Thus, accounting & finance professionals with capabilities in developing new tools and implementing processes that lead to business growth have been in high demand by hiring managers, especially those with experience in embedding best practice repeatable business models and providing actionable insights and solutions.
Due to new revenue recognition and lease accounting standards, professionals with experience in revenue accounting and revenue reporting are also highly sought after.
There will be a slowdown in hiring as we head towards the end of the year, with a pick up expected just after Chinese New Year as candidates wait to receive their year end bonus before assessing whether to make their next career move. Despite this, there are no signs of a slowdown in hiring within e-commerce and financial services, both of which will remain active this year and next.