What career opportunities are there for accountants in Singapore?
With a shortage of accountants in Singapore, career opportunities are numerous. This was highlighted in the ACCA/Robert Half survey findings in September 2010 where a significant 81% of Singapore respondents with recruitment responsibilities believed there was an existing skills shortage in finance & accounting. Opportunities for accountants include working in public practice such as the Big 4 or other accounting firms and the work they do is quite diverse, ranging from accounting, auditing and tax, to consulting work. However, the majority of accountants tend to work in commercial organisations in roles such as internal auditors, management accountants, financial controllers and chief financial officers. Finally, accountants who work in the financial services sector may work as fund managers, analysts, product controllers and also in shared  services.

What sort of training or qualifications does one need to bean accountant here?
To be an accountant, one would need either a diploma in accountancy or diploma in accounting and finance from a polytechnic or a degree in accounting from a university or a professional accounting qualification from a professional body such as ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). Salary and job position will depend on the type of qualification and experience attained. Those with a university degree or the ACCA Qualification and relevant work experience will naturally start at a higher level.

What are some personal traits needed to be a good accountant?
Some personal traits include being ethical, prudent, analytical, and having an excellent eye for detail.

What sort of on-going training does an accountant need to go through each year?
Professional accounting bodies require that their members be consistently updated on all the changes in the business environment. ACCA, for  example, organises a combination of both technical and soft skills events for its members. ACCA requires its members to complete 40 hours of  continuing professional development courses (CPD) per year. Hence our workshops range from technical subjects such as changes in standards and regulations to talks and seminars on communication skills, leadership development and management skills.

What are some of the skills accountants in Singapore need to hone for the future?
One important skill accountants need to do is to build on their communication skills as it is crucial to be able to explain and present clearly yet  simply important financial information to a variety of stakeholders. Another skill is having good people skills to manage teams effectively. A third  skill is the ability to understand how new technologies can help track and filter information to assist in management decisions. These were highlighted by CFOs at a high level roundtable discussion organised by ACCA in December 2010.

How is the accountancy industry changing in Singapore?
The accounting landscape is undergoing many positive changes as Singapore gears up to become an accounting hub by 2020. This means that  there will be a lot more demand for accounting and finance talent as more Singapore jobs and areas of specialisation open up. These are very exciting times  for the industry and for professional bodies like ACCA. We are proud that annually we produce approximately 40% of the accounting  graduates in Singapore and we hope to continue to help employers meet their hiring needs.

What are some of the misconceptions that job candidates have about the accounting industry?
Some perceptions would be that accounting is staid and boring. Accounting is contrary to this. It helps shape businesses and economies. Another misleading perception is that the industry is only about audit. Audit is only one important area. There are many other interesting areas to  specialize in and some of these include tax, treasury, risk management, sustainability advisory services for a growing eco-conscious community and even forensic accounting.