Finance industry trends: Rising demand for Asia’s professionals


As an overall hiring trend in financial services, companies in finance are finding fewer candidates with the skills and experience needed to add value to their organisations.

The overlying finance industry trend has seen the strengthening of the US economy and continuing growth across Asia fuelling demand for experienced finance and accounting talent. This is accompanied by a tightening in the supply of experienced professionals, resulting in a ‘war for talent’. Making the situation even more challenging for Asia’s business community, many of the most sought after professionals are receiving offers from multiple employers.

The knock-on effect is that rising demand for Asia’s accounting and finance professionals is putting hiring and retention issues at the forefront of corporate agendas.

Concerns over losing top people

Industry research conducted earlier this year for the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide (Singapore | Hong Kong | China | Japan) indicated that in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai around 90% of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) were concerned about losing their top people. A similar proportion of CFOs reported significant challenges in finding skilled finance and accounting professionals.

The market has become even tighter since the beginning of 2015, and while the 2016 Robert Half Salary Guide (due for release in the New Year) will provide a clearer picture, the fact remains that salaries are rising as firms compete vigorously for the best candidates.

Professionals in greatest demand

In keeping with the diversity of the region, the type of finance professionals in most demand varies between economies. In Hong Kong and Japan for instance, business and finance analysts are proving to be the roles that are hardest to fill. In Singapore and Shanghai, pure accounting roles are the most challenging to recruit for, though it is worth noting that the range of firms trying to gain a foothold in the Chinese market is driving demand for quality candidates virtually across the finance and accounting spectrum.

How critical is salary?

In the current competitive hiring trend in financial services, business organisations should develop a strong system of talent development and retention to compete for the top people in the industry.

Salary is always likely to play a major role when it comes to hiring new staff. Experienced, skilled professionals typically stay abreast of market salaries and are unlikely to accept a position unless the salary is at least in line with market levels. This puts businesses across Asia under intense pressure to keep up with their rivals when it comes to salary levels, yet it is something many employers struggle with.

The full package matters

Staying on top of current salary levels is a critical step for employers hoping to attract and retain top accounting and finance professionals. While salary can play a valuable role in attracting talent, it is by no means the only criteria candidates will use to select between roles - or to decide whether to stay on in a job they already have.

In keeping with global finance industry trends, skilled professionals across Asia are demanding more of a balance between their professional life and private leisure time. Those firms that are successful in hiring the top finance and accounting talent are able to deliver on both sides of the equation – providing a complete package of work/life benefits rather than focusing solely on salaries.

The ability to respond to the growing preference for professional/personal life balance can call for remuneration packages that combine cash and non-cash benefits. Already we are seeing the way that firms can build quality teams by structuring packages that reflect the needs and preferences of individual candidates. Yes, it involves more of an investment of time and energy in recruiting efforts, but it’s all about making your firm stand out as a great place to work while also ticking all the boxes for career growth.

Creative salary packages don’t just benefit employees

As more fledgling businesses attempt to gain traction in Asia’s growth markets, the reality is that some firms simply don’t have the budgets to offer salaries at the top end of the finance and accounting scale. By adopting a holistic approach to staff benefits, organisations with lean budgets can still be well-placed to attract and retain quality talent.

The key is to achieve the right blend of a competitive salary combined with other, potentially non-cash benefits. The ideal mix can tip the scales in a firm’s favour, and faced with an intensely competitive hiring environment, this is one area where Asian businesses can benefit from the expertise of proven recruitment professionals.

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