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Industry boosts accounting appeal with new roles, education programmes

There has been a 10% decrease in accounting degree students at universities in Singapore.

Singapore has been producing fewer accounting graduates, alarming the industry which is only seeing higher demand for professionals in the field. To lure more people into the profession, key players have come together to develop programmes to make accountancy an attractive career.

Deloitte, for example, has partnered with Singapore Management University (SMU) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to conduct Audit Analytics electives in the two educational institutions.

The consulting firm has also launched a first-of-its-kind Accelerated Career Programme which aims to develop future accountants.

“[The programme] is open to Accountancy and Accountancy & Finance undergraduates and diploma students in the local universities and polytechnics,” said Ong Siok Peng, talent leader at Deloitte Singapore.

“Through an extended internship period, the programme will equip students with the necessary skills and experience to perform at a higher level as a new graduate,” Ong said.

Data from PERSOLKELLY showed that over the past five years, there has been a 10% decrease in accountancy degree students at universities in Singapore. On the other hand, demand for accounting jobs is expected to reach up to 7,000 by 2025.

“A continued shortage of fresh accounting graduates may lead to consolidation in Singapore’s accounting market,” PERSOLKELLY warned.

To address manpower challenges faced by the accounting industry, the government has formed a task force to enhance the profession’s attractiveness.

The Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA) spent $1m for its Global Talent Programme which aims to raise awareness of the accounting profession. The one-week immersion experience set for July drew 1,300 applications from 44 different nations.

The programme is open to undergraduates from any discipline. Candidates  will undergo mentoring sessions and visit listed companies, start-ups, and government agencies. 

The ISCA also offers such programmes as the Singapore Chartered Accountant Qualification (SCAQ) to support aspiring chartered accountants (CA) and the Accelerated Pathway Programme (APP)

To enhance the SCAQ infrastructure, the institute plans to invest $15 million for a dedicated center, scholarships, sponsor tuitions, and a "study first, pay later" scheme.

In April, the ISCA launched the APP, a programme for two years that helps accountancy degree students fast-track their route to becoming a CA in Singapore. This allows eligible students to take SCAQ module exams whilst studying in the university.

The ISCA also hosts events like the Accounta-Poly Career Day and AccountanCity 2024, in which students can learn about different career pathways in accountancy.

Apart from Deloitte, other private sector players like KPMG are also doing their part to boost the local accountancy industry.

KPMG has vowed to commit $50m over the next five years to bolster its financial services, innovation and inception and environment, social and corporate governance (ESG) capabilities.

“Accountants can be well positioned for the relatively uncommon role of Chief Finance and Sustainability Office, which is present in organisations with well-developed sustainability initiatives and commitments,” PERSOLKELLY said.

Salaries

Having competitive salaries also play a factor in luring more professionals in the field, which is why Deloitte has also taken steps to ensure that remuneration and benefits packages for accountancy graduates are “competitive compared to other industries.”

In Singapore, the salary range for accountants and assistant accountants with one to three years of experience is $3,500 to $5,500 per month.

Meanwhile, salaries of auditors with three to six years of experience range from $5,300-$7,500 per month. For Tax Associates with four to eight years of experience, salary could range from $5,000-$6,500 per month. Those working in treasury, like a treasury coordinator with one to three years of experience, can get a salary of $2,900 to $3,500 per month.

Apart from offering competitive compensation, Deloitte prioritises attracting top talent by conducting comprehensive on-the-job training, providing leadership development pathways, and opportunities for reskilling and upskilling.

The firm also adopts an apprenticeship model to ensure that employees master their crafts and deliver high-quality work.

“Mobility experiences are also important. With Deloitte Singapore being part of Deloitte Southeast Asia and a broader Asia Pacific and global network, it means that we can provide our people with mobility opportunities in the form of cross-border work, overseas secondment, and collaboration with colleagues from different cultures and backgrounds,” Ong said.

Evergreen profession

Whilst interest in accountancy might have waned over the past years, Ong believes the profession will not lose its attractiveness.

“Accountancy is an evergreen profession — it is an attractive, forward-looking profession that promises a secure future. Accountants will constantly be in demand as professionals explore emerging fields such as technology and digitalisation,” Ong said.

As PERSOLKELLY suggests, new and emerging roles in accountancy can challenge the perception that the field is boring, a point also highlighted by Ong.

“Today, accountancy makes use of advanced technology that takes away the more manual tasks, allowing accounting professionals opportunities to perform more value-added work. The profession is no longer just bean-counting; it involves a lot more future-forward skills like data analytics and consultancy/advisory, which are invaluable for the growth of businesses driven by the next bound of digitalisation and sustainability,” Ong said.

“It is key for the industry to ensure that the work opportunities we provide for our professionals are engaging and attractive. This can be done through the nature of work opportunities, development tools and methodologies available, and appealing compensation,” Deloitte’s Ong concluded.

The ISCA, for its part, said accountancy offers wide career pathways, including financial accounting, financial planning & analysis, assurance, tax, corporate finance, internal audit, governance, risk and compliance, and treasury.

“Accountants are found in every business and those who possess the skills, drive, and business acumen can enjoy fast progression and high earning potential, " the ISCA told Singapore Business Review. In fact, one in every four members of the institute has navigated successfully to leadership positions on the level of C-suite, Board of Directors, and senior management roles.
 

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