Many in Singapore's finance, accounting 'not future-ready', reveals survey

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) - A new survey reveals that a large majority of respondents say they are not yet equipped with the necessary skills for their jobs in 10 years' time.

Singapore's finance and accounting professionals say they are unprepared for the demands of their jobs amid disruptions in the economy.

They add that they lack workplace support to develop the necessary skills, according to a survey by Ernst & Young (EY) and CPA Australia.

The survey polled 150 Singapore-based accounting and finance professionals between August and last month.

An overwhelming 79 per cent of the respondents said they are not yet equipped with the necessary skills to meet the demands of their job in 10 years' time. The main factors preventing them from acquiring new skills include a lack of time (73 per cent), financial resources (45 per cent) and employer support (37 per cent).

According to the survey, six in 10 found the current curriculum offered by education and professional bodies insufficient to develop skills to help them down the track. A similar number said their organisations are not helping them to do so.

The survey respondents said that professional bodies, educational institutions and the Government can help by incorporating technology into the accounting curriculum or by introducing courses on related skills so they can upskill.

The survey revealed that the drivers of change with the most impact on the accounting profession are the spread of digital technologies and business model disruptions; increased regulation and governance; and increasing globalisation.

On the finding that nearly eight out of 10 respondents did not feel future-ready, Challenger Technologies' chief financial officer Tan Wee Ko said that the results were not surprising as it is hard to anticipate what is coming down the track.

He added: "The biggest challenges will be to remain relevant as a business and to constantly bring more value to our customers due to intense competition and rapid changes in the way things are being done."

The top skills that finance and accounting professionals think they will need in 10 years' time are: strategic thinking, business acumen, leadership, communication and influencing capabilities, and analysis and advisory skills.

Technology skills, such as information technology and digital skills, and information management skills, such as statistical analysis and data mining, are also gaining in prominence.

Vincent Toong, EY assurance partner, said: "As accounting professionals are increasingly being asked to be business advisers to other functions in their organisations, it is not surprising that strategic thinking and business acumen and leadership skills rank high."

Risk management skills did not feature among the top skills that finance and accounting professionals think they will need to be future-ready, despite being regarded highly by chief financial officers in an EY 2016 survey.

Said Toong of the divergence in views: "Larger organisations typically have a separate risk function while in smaller firms, the responsibility often rests with the owner-management or is outsourced to professionals. Hence many finance and accounting professionals do not see risk management as core to their role."

Melvin Yong, Singapore country head at CPA Australia, said that there was so much that organisations and learning bodies could do. "Acquiring skills of the future is a lifelong learning journey that individuals must personally own."

He added that CPA Australia is launching a new training programme consisting of 20 courses which will cover areas such as key accounting standards and taxation. He hopes that "the flexibility of bite-sized learning will encourage a discipline of continuous learning among accounting and finance professionals amid their busy schedules to keep their knowledge ahead of the curve".

The survey report was launched yesterday at the CPA Congress 2017 held at the Raffles City Convention Centre in Singapore.

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