The days of double-digit salary growth may be over in Singapore

30 March 2015

Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide reveals wage rises are being moderated but hiring activity is on the rise

Singapore among the most active hiring markets for accounting and finance professionals

The days of double-digit salary increases may be at an end as employers look to reign in the strong wage growth of the last three years and offer non-financial incentives to attract and retain employees.

According to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide for Singapore, employees in finance and accounting, banking and financial services and technology roles are more likely to receive wage rises below the 10 per cent or more many positions received in previous years.

The Robert Half Asia Salary guide covers four markets, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Shanghai. The industry sectors that the guide covers are:

  • Finance and Accounting: Covering accountants, finance, credit, tax, and treasury experts working in a range of industry sectors.
  • Banking and Financial Services: Covering roles in banks, insurance and financial institutions, including risk, compliance, finance and accounting, operations and front office.
  • Technology: Covering roles as application managers, IT architects, IT directors, CIOs (Chief Information Officers), network engineers, programme managers and security professionals.

Ms Stella Tang, Managing Director of Robert Half Singapore said wage growth is slowing as companies become more cost conscious.

“After several years of rapid wage growth, employers are moderating the rate of further increases. Company leadership is becoming more cost conscious and while they are keen to add new people to their team, they are keeping a close eye on the overall wages bill.”

“In the modern workforce cash salaries are just one aspect of an employment package, albeit the most important one. Companies are increasingly likely to offer employees a package that includes benefits such as flexible work arrangements, performance bonuses, mentoring and international opportunities.”

“There are a few roles which are still commanding increases of more than 10 per cent. We are seeing a strengthening of demand for some technology roles in business analysis, IT Audit and Risk as well IT Business Development. These roles can expect above average salary increases this year.”

“The salary situation is slightly more optimistic for people moving to new companies. A person moving into a new company can usually expect double the pay increase of those remaining with their existing company,” Ms Tang said.

Mr Lee Fook Chiew, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA), said keeping their skills up to date was the best strategy for accounting and finance professionals to stay relevant and land the better paying jobs.

“The accounting and finance profession is constantly evolving. New regulations together with changing business priorities means there is always something new to learn, such as financial analysis, business valuation, risk management and auditing regulations.”

“While there is an increase in finance and accounting jobs across most industries, the employment market is still very competitive. In an increasingly challenging and complex business environment, businesses will have more stringent hiring requirements and are always on the lookout for capable talents to be strategic partners to their senior management. Hence, individuals need to take responsibility for their own professional development to stay ahead of the game, or risk being left behind,” Mr Lee said.

WAGE GROWTH SLOWING BUT HIRING ACTIVITY INCREASING

While wage growth is slowing, the number of companies making new hires is increasing and is now at its highest level in three years.

Half of all companies surveyed plan to increase headcount in the first half of the year. Two years ago this percentage was closer to a third.

Table 1: Hiring Activity for Singapore for the first half of 2015

 

Commerce & Industry (Finance & Accounting)

First Half of 2013

First Half of 2014

First Half of 2015

Expanding headcount

37%

45%

53%

Maintaining headcount

56%

53%

39%

Freezing headcount

7%

3%

6%

Reducing headcount

0%

0%

2%

 

Banking & Financial Services  

First Half of 2013

First Half of 2014

First Half of 2015

Expanding headcount

38%

43%

52%

Maintaining headcount

51%

46%

39%

Freezing headcount

9%

10%

7%

Reducing headcount 

2%

1%

2%

 

Technology

First Half of 2013

First Half of 2014

First Half of 2015

Expanding headcount

26%

35%

50%

Maintaining headcount

46%

59%

42%

Freezing headcount

14%

5%

6%

Reducing headcount

14%

1%

2%

The most significant increase in hiring activity is for technology professionals. Two years ago just 26 per cent of companies were looking to employ more IT staff. This year 50 per cent of companies are making technology hires.

In the Banking and Financial Services sector, employment activity has risen steadily each of the last two years, with companies seeking to fill mid-level and senior positions. In the Finance and Accounting sector there is also a growing demand across companies for accounting as well as compliance professionals.

Compared to other regional financial centres, Singapore is among the most active hiring markets for accounting and finance professionals, behind China (59 per cent) and on par with Hong Kong (53 per cent).

Table1: Hiring markets for accounting and finance professionals in Asia

 

 

2015

2014

 

Market

% of companies adding permanent employees

Market

% of companies adding permanent employees

1

China

59

China

69

2

Singapore

53

Hong Kong

48

2

Hong Kong

53

Singapore

45

3

Japan

39

Japan

29

THE HOT JOBS

Finance and Accounting

Tax: Top Salaries: up to $95,000 for analysts and up to $360,000+ for directors. Year-on-year increases of between 2 to 6 per cent.

A growing number of companies are looking to strengthen their in-house tax capabilities as an alternative to outsourcing this function to consulting firms. The role of the tax professional is increasingly complex given the exposure of many Singapore companies to multiple markets, each with their own tax compliance regime.

Banking and Financial Services:

Credit Risk: Top Salaries: up to $70,000 for analysts and up to $210,000 for SVP/MDs. Year-on-year increases of between 4 to 6 per cent.

There is an increasing demand for people with the skills to manage the credit exposure of banks and insurance companies. While companies are still keen to pursue growth, their experience during the last decade has shown getting paid is as important as getting sales.

Technology

IT Audit and IT Risk: Top Salaries: up to $140,000 with year-on-year increases of 13 per cent.

Numerous high profile examples of cyber-attacks on companies have focused management on the need to make their IT infrastructure secure. That’s why there is strong wages growth for professionals that can examine, evaluate and improve an organization's information technology infrastructure, policies and operations.

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