HeadHunt - View From the Top - Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

Mark Billington FCA
Regional director, South East Asia
Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
What qualifications would one need to be an accountant in Singapore?

There are many different types of accountants, from book-keepers in a SME to a partner of a global accountancy firm, or a CFO of a multinational bank.

To support these diverse roles, there are a range of qualifications available in Singapore. For example, to sign off on accounts and financial documents, you must be a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ICPAS), either through direct entry or through a recognised qualification such as the ACA, ACCA or CPA.

What are the careers opportunities are there in the Singapore market for an accountant?

There are many career opportunities for accountants in Singapore, from working as an auditor in one of the many accountancy firms in Singapore, to working in-house to manage internal financial resources. Many accountancy graduates also work in the financial services industry as bankers.
What personality traits or attributes would one need to have in order to be an accountant?

You have to be comfortable working with numbers but it is not necessary to be a brilliant mathematician. To progress in your career, it helps to have an internationally recognised qualification such as the ACA. For example, ICAEW members are trained to have higher skill levels in business analytics and problem-solving, as well as in soft skills.

What is one common misconception about the role of an accountant?

Accountants are typically stereotyped as rather introverted types whose only interests are numbers. Whilst having excellent numerical skills is vital to become a successful accountant, it is only part of the required package.

Most of the number-orientated work in accountancy can now be done automatically by computers and calculators. Accountancy, particularly as an individual advances in seniority, becomes less about numbers and more about decision support, business strategy, and communicating with senior business leaders.
What is a typical day of an accountant like in Singapore?

There is never really a typical working day. The type of work tends to be varied, particularly for those working in audit firms. This is because auditors tend to service many different clients who have different needs and objectives. This can range from Corporate Finance, Transaction Services, Restructuring and Insolvency, Internal Audits and Governance Advisory, Investigations and many more.

A typical work day for an accountant in a professional services firm involve client meetings, site visits and fieldwork, reviewing reports and deliverables, as well as presenting to clients. Senior accountants also have an internal management role, leading their departments and ensuring that they are providing training and guidance to their team members.

For practising accountants, how can they upgrade their skills for the coming future?

Many companies have in-house training programmes which help their employees upgrade their skills and on top of that, there are several professional bodies that offer membership in Singapore.

Those belonging to a professional body tap on the rich resources available to their members as part of their continuing professional development, such as the ICAEW’s faculties which provide the best up-to-date information, thought leadership and advice for disciplines such as Finance and Management, Corporate Finance and Information Technology.

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