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Accountancy and Financial Management
BDO LLP: How to Get Hired
Jocelyn gives an insight on what it takes to excel the hiring selection processes at BDO LLP.
Please describe the assessment process for applicants to your organisation.
Shortlisted candidates will be granted an interview appointment. During the interview, there will be 3 phases:
- Introduction by graduates - getting to know them, their background and their 3-5 years career objective.
- Questions and answers – testing of eloquence, confidence level and presentation skills when handling questions.
- What BDO offers – sharing of organisation structure, types of industry and job exposure, training and travelling opportunities, discussion on structured career path and employer's expectations.
What are the skill sets you look for in fresh graduate applicants?
Young graduates are generally energetic and enthusiastic. Having the right attitude and good academic foundation will enable fresh graduates to develop the relevant expertise quickly. However, these young talents may not have a good understanding of the industry that they aspire to work in. An outstanding candidate is one who is focused and well prepared. They come to the interview with a list of questions that they need to clarify.
Notwithstanding the basic expectations of the graduate being eloquent, confident, inquisitive and trustworthy, the thinking process of the graduates in handling questions and hypothetical scenarios would demonstrate if a person is well balanced. An all rounder with good involvement in co-curriculum activities is a definitely a plus point.
Please give us an example of an area which your organisation is focusing on in developing talents.
Here at BDO, we are passionate about nurturing and developing talents to be an all-rounder:
- Leaders for exceptional Client Service
- Analytical and Innovative employee
- Career development
Does your company have a structured graduate programme? If so, what advice would you give to graduates wanting to make the most of these programmes?
Yes, our firm does have a structure graduate programme. In fact, I strongly encourage undergraduates who have not quite decided on what they should do, to intern in the industry that they are interested to pursue. In this manner, they will be able to get a sense of the industry as well as their potential employer. They should also take this opportunity to discuss with their supervisor their suitability for the industry and obtain further career advice. Learning from other people's experiences is always valuable.
How do you identify culture fit during the recruitment process?
We can never be 100 per cent sure about culture fit during the recruitment process but first impressions definitely matter! The ability to answer questions direct to the point and demonstrating a down-to-earth attitude would be the basic factors to identify suitability.
Please describe your company's culture in three words.
Integrity, Innovation, Empowerment.
Tax: Graduate Area of Work
Helping clients and business organisations reconcile between taxation demands and tax laws.
Tax advisors play the role of consultants, supervising tax problems for clients or advising them on certain tax laws. They generally dispense advice on three broad areas.
First, they help clients understand the tax implications of all their business dealings, from buying new computers for staff to selling off a part of the business.
Second, they identify cost-effective solutions to taxation demands made on their client while still ensuring compliance with local tax laws.
Third, they advise clients on the implications of change — whether within the business in relation to the tax system, or changes in tax laws that may impact the business.
Aside from major corporate tax issues such as compliance (tax returns) and transactions (mergers and acquisitions), other specialist areas of tax advisory include employee issues (e.g. stock options and CPF contributions), indirect tax services (e.g. advising on VAT, GST, and import duties), and personal or business taxation services for high net worth clients.
Most tax advisors start off as trainees in a tax department of a professional services firm as they study part-time for the professional qualifications needed to become a chartered tax accountant.
From there, you may choose to move from a general tax department to an organisation that focuses exclusively on taxation issues, or possibly specialising even further in certain fields of taxation.
As a full-fledged tax advisor, your core responsibilities include preparing taxes for your clients in such a way that will help decrease the amount of tax that needs to be paid, while still complying with tax regulations set by the government.
It will also be your responsibility to research previous tax fillings, attend strategy meetings with clients, and prepare presentations about their tax liabilities so as to keep them updated about their company’s current health.
Life as a tax accountant is exciting as you may find yourself working in a proposal meeting one day, and then on large tenders the next.
A finance degree is helpful but not essential, though Chartered Accountant certification is a must.
Aside from that, all practicing tax accountants in Singapore are required to undertake 30 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) each year in order to maintain the quality of their work.
The course is offered by the ISCA and the Tax Academy of Singapore, as well selected tax and accounting organisations.
You may find out more about this through the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals (SIAPT), aninformation institute about the tax profession.
Aside from paper qualifications, you will also need to arm yourself with knowledge about the latest laws and regulations in regards to taxation matters so as to ensure that your advices to your clients are timely and accurate.
This includes becoming familiar with the international business scene and the tax laws of other regions and countries as you may need to deal with international investments on behalf of your clients.
Equally important is also the ability to cope with pressure, and the practice of discretion when handling your clients’ tax affairs as much of this information will be private and confidential.
Ups and downs
Tax advisory is an intellectually-challenging sector that will generate great satisfaction when you successfully resolve difficult issues for your clients.
You will also find yourself working in teams with varied backgrounds and specialisations, which gives you good exposure to the different aspects of advisory work.
You may, however, experience considerable stress from juggling multiple projects while pursuing specialised qualifications, as well as keeping to tight deadlines. Nonetheless, the sense of fulfillment that you gain when you succeed is immense.
Occasionally, you may also come across difficult clients who are frustratingly secretive of their business accounts even if they did contract you for your services in the first place.
Risk Assessment: Graduate Area of Work
Troubleshooting and catching commercial risks before they even happen to ensure maximum turnover.
Risk assessment caters to the systematic process of identifying and evaluating potential risks that may influence an organisation’s pursuit of its business goals and objectives, both positively and negatively.
Its chief priority is to help businesses recognise the risks that they may face, and then advise on the engaging of the perceived risks as they take into consideration the risk appetite of the company.
This information will help investors and business managers make informed decisions in order to avoid losses or to profit from an opportunity, such as if it is worthwhile to undertake a particular investment, as well as ways to avoid the potential losses that may be incurred.
Occasionally, risk assessment services are offered along with compliance advisory services, which endeavour to keep businesses up-to-date with new laws and rulings that have been issued by the government in the continuously-changing business industry.
Risk assessment services may also be packaged with governance advisory services, which offer advice on the process of running a company so that it meets the expectations of the management, stakeholders, and the staff.
Most graduates who intend to pursue a career in this sector tend to start out in a broader area, such as assurance, for training before they decide to specialise in risk assessment.
Some firms, however, choose to absorb new graduates directly into their risk assessment department, particularly larger organisations that prefer to train graduates in-house.
As a trainee, you will be expected to monitor daily business functions to evaluate the efficiency of existing risk controls, and to assist with the preparation of recommendation reports for clients.
As you rise through the ranks, you may be asked to plan, design, and supervise the implementation of a risk management process and continuity plans for an organisation, as well as to establish and determine the risk appetite of a company.
A large part of your job will include working closely with the executive board and the senior management of the company as you will be required to advise them on various business decisions.
This can include issues such as security and fraud protection, ecological and social performance, and the management of their technology departments.
Most risk assessors will need to possess an in-depth knowledge of enterprise risk management (ERM) programmes and Risk Control Self Assessments (RCSA), as well as a comprehensive understanding of the various types of risks that a company may face, both locally and internationally.
You will also need to keep abreast of the latest changes in laws and regulations so as to offer up-to-date assistance to your clients.
As an integral part of your job includes reporting and advising a wide range of people in the company – such as the board of directors, the business heads, and the department managers – so you will have to possess excellent communication skills so as to be able to convey your message in a way that is most relevant to them.
Do develop good interpersonal skills and a level of confidence as well, as these will help you in your interactions with your clients.
Ups and downs
As a risk assessor, you will find your position to be intellectually stimulating, particularly when you work for international companies or government ministries.
It is also immensely satisfying when you succeed in helping decision-makers avoid risks or capitalise on opportunities.
It is, however, necessary to remember that this position is chiefly aconsultative and supervisory position. As such,you will hold little decision-making power.
You may sometimes be frustrated when you come across clients who are difficult to convince, or are unwilling to take your advice.
Internal Audit: Graduate Area of Work
Internal auditors are the accounting “housekeepers” of a business organisation, keeping domestic checks on its accounts to ensure clarity and precision.
Internal audit caters to domestic checks within a company, where a team of auditors is brought in to inspect the accounts for the business organisation’s own in-house use, as opposed to external audits.
The administration will use these findings to improve on their business operations and strategies, which will then help them achieve their goals.
Along with the report, internal auditors may also advise the administrative department on the performance of the company, as well as the financial risks that are being incurred by the company.
It is their responsibility to test the adequacy of the risk controls that have been put into place and to advise on necessary adjustments to these controls.
Internal audits are not compulsory, but still highly recommended. In Singapore, internal auditors are governed by The Institute of Internal Auditors Singapore.
As a new graduate entering this field, you usually start off as an audit assistant where you will spend much of your time reviewing accounts on site, including interacting with the staff and management for more information, and taking samples from the record for testing purposes.
As you climb the corporate ladder, you will be assigned heavier roles during audit jobs, particularly strategic ones.
In this situation, you may have to evaluate information security and risk exposures, and advise company management on the necessary fine-tuning.
Having extensive knowledge of accounting software products, ERP systems and processes, and the local accounting systems of the company will be to your benefit.
Effective communication skills and good language proficiency – particularly if you can speak multiple dialects – is another added bonus as these may help you liaise more successfully with the staff and management during your assignments.
Much of the information that internal auditors need for their reports will come from an unsorted assortment of accounts and interviews, so you will need to possess a keen eye for detail and an analytical mind to make proper sense of the materials.
It is important that you maintain a level of professional skepticism when faced with the surface information that you are provided with.
Personality-wise, internal auditors are encouraged to possess a high level of independence and adaptability. As most of your jobs will be project-based, this means that you will often be exploring vastly different areas on-the-job.
This also means that you will need to take initiative and study more about the organisations that you will be auditing on your own even as you settle into your new responsibilities.
Ups and downs
One of the most exciting aspect about your job as an internal auditor is the wide variety of sectors that you may dabble in.
As the jobs are usually project-based, you will find yourself encountering and learning a lot of new things during your tenure, especially during the beginning of your career.
This opportunity to learn will also equip you with diverse knowledge about various business organisations, thus giving you a broader, more objective perspective about the business world in general.
You will, however, sometimes meet difficult people during your work, particularly during your interviews of company staff, as they may not see a point to your work.
Patience and motivation is essential during such times.
Deadlines may also sometimes clash, which sometimes translate to all-nighters, but the satisfaction that you get from contributing to a company’s achievement of their business objectives is tremendous.
Forensic Accounting: Graduate Area of Work
Performing investigative processes to expose frauds and illegitimate financial practices.
Forensic accounting is a niche within the field of accountancy that employs accounting and financial skills during investigations of fraud, disputes, and suspected transgressions.
It is the responsibility of a forensic accountant to identify and uncover illegitimate financial practices in order to identify suspects and recover illicit funds.
These investigations make the nature of this job a sensitive one. Following the analysis, they are required to report to the senior management of the (hiring) company.
Some forensic accountants, however, specialise in the division of fraud risk management, where they work to reduce the likelihood of financial fraud.
Depending on their job scope, some forensic accountants will have to work with law enforcement authorities and lawyers, and may even be requested to act as expert witnesses in court.
Most graduates spend some time training and gaining experience in an audit or forensic department before they join forensic accounting, although some may be enlisted directly into the field.
During the earlier stage of your employment, you can expect to have to trawl through quite a bit of low-level data analysis – creating spreadsheets, trawling through financial records for relevant information, and checking through written records.
However, as you gain more experience in this line of work, you will eventually be given more responsibility with regards to how individual investigations are conducted.
Possessing a finance-related degree and/or additional training in criminal justice or law enforcement will be added bonuses, but you will first be required to obtain a recognised professional qualification.
Most firms in Singapore accept qualifications such as Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and/or Chartered Accountant of Singapore.
Aside from specialised qualifications and good numerical skills, an inquisitive and analytical mind are of utmost importance.
It is your responsibility to identify the source of fraud and to pin down the culprit, so you will need to practise caution and question most of the reports and numbers that come to you.
You will also need to remain focused at all times, bearing in mind the key issues of the case and being aware of the significance of the information being analysed.
Most of the details that you will be handling are of a sensitive nature, so you should approach them with care. Attention to detail is very important – important evidence might be hiding in the depths of seemingly trivial data.
Similarly, it is immensely important that you portray a professional image at all times. It reflects an identity of independence, integrity, and credibility – traits that cannot be stressed enough in this field.
As a representative of your company, you need to convince your clients that you stand for objectivity and unbiased judgement.
Ups and downs
Some of the obstacles that you can expect to encounter during your work include uncooperative clients or emotional employees who feel wronged or that their loyalty to the company is being judged.
Work can also get tedious and laborious at times, especially routine record analysis. But if you do pull through, the sense of satisfaction that you get is immense.
Finding crucial pieces of information that helps with solving the case is just as rewarding.
Working in forensic accounting may also lead to quite a bit of travelling, and you will meet a lot of people from diverse and interesting backgrounds such as law enforcement officers, forensic technicians, lawyers, and even private investigators.
Navigating Deloitte's Interview Questions
Here are some sample questions you could be asked at different stages of the graduate recruitment process at Deloitte, followed by tips on how to show their recruiters that you possess the competencies they're looking for!
Remember that even if the questions you're asked on the day itself are different, thinking about how you'd answer these will be great preparation for your interview regardless.
“Why do you want to work for Deloitte?”
Employers always tell students to provide examples in their interview answers, so take them up on their advice! You can demonstrate your commercial awareness and passion for your career path by giving a couple of examples about what Deloitte is currently doing.
The points you make should show that you’ve researched the company thoroughly – simply referring to Deloitte’s quarterly results doesn’t really say much, and that won’t make you stand out from the competition! They key to answering this is that you need to talk about what the facts you bring up mean.
Think about recent developments. For example, what does Deloitte Singapore’s 2015 launch of the Deloitte Risk Innovation Centre say about the company? Explain how these developments are relevant to you, your interests, and your decision to apply to Deloitte.
Don’t say: Any clichéd statement about: “Deloitte’s strong reputation for excellence”, “The chance to work with market-leading auditors and tax associates”, “Working within a true meritocracy”, or anything that sounds just as sycophantic.
“Why did you choose this service line at Deloitte?”
Think about the day-to-day tasks of the job you’re applying for. If you’re working in the restructuring services team as part of the corporate finance division at Deloitte, then you’d be doing different tasks than a peer in corporate finance advisory. These two areas may fall within the purview of corporate finance, but you’d need to talk about the specifics of your particular position within that division.
In this case, a very basic answer would be saying that corporate finance is an area where you can utilise your problem-solving skills. A more detailed answer would be that working in the restructuring services team means you’d be analysing problems from the perspectives of both Deloitte and the client. An even more detailed answer would be to then relate those tasks back to your past experiences, either through previous internships or your time at university!
Don’t say: “I'm not sure which service line I’d like to join yet, actually.” You need to prove that you’re decisive and determined about what you want in your immediate career!
“If you were asked to run Deloitte for a day, what would you do?”
Deloitte is looking for graduates who can make and carry out clear decisions, and who have excellent planning and organisational skills. Your interviewers will likely bombard you with follow-up questions that challenge your opinions – they’ll play Devil’s advocate to ensure you have considered things from every angle.
You could suggest, for example, that you would identify a number of growth areas for Deloitte in the technology sector. By citing Deloitte’s “Tech Trends 2015 Report – The Fusion of Business and IT”, you can tie your thoughts in line with some of Deloitte's published market research. Still, if you plan on giving an example like this, you also have to consider the potential impact of your decisions on Deloitte’s other service lines and their markets beyond Singapore, as well as the long term impact your decisions may have on the business.
Don’t say: “I would make wholesale changes to X business area and focus only on one or two markets alone.” Remember to think about how your actions here could impact the rest of the business! It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing only on what you are interested in, rather than the best interests of Deloitte as an international business.
“What kinds of documents would an auditor check?”
Throw in a real world example if you can. Think about Deloitte’s investigations into the controversial 1MDB government-linked investment fund just next door in Malaysia. It’s a highly-politicised case, so if you were working on this audit there would be absolutely no room for mistakes.
Work your way through this hypothetical case systematically. Who would you need to investigate? What systems would you need to look at? How would you prioritise your tasks? You may face follow-up questions, such as: “How would you obtain these documents in this case?”, or “Which of those problems would you tackle first?”
Don’t say: “I’d check X, and Y, and Z, and...” It’s not enough to just rattle off a list of the documents involved – you need to explain what you’re checking them for, as well!
“What are the challenges that Deloitte is currently facing?”
This is a particularly fun question, because it’s a great opportunity to sell yourself in terms of what value you could bring to Deloitte!
You need to take some recent news about the company and tie it in to what you do. To cite the previous example, Deloitte has recently come under heavy fire for their handling for the 1MDB audit in Malaysia. However, just stating that fact isn’t enough: you need to be able to follow up with something like: “What this means for Deloitte is X...” Or even better: “This is what it means for the division I’m applying to, and how it might affect our work here in Singapore.”
Don’t say: Avoid dropping filler about how “The current economic climate makes things difficult for Deloitte.” You’ll need to know plenty about local, national, and international economics before you should even dare to make a sweeping statement like that!
How to Prove You Are a Good Fit For Deloitte
Here are some approaches and strategies that you can use to answer three key questions that Deloitte’s recruiters are likely to toss at you in their online application forms for graduate jobs and internships to assess your fit with their company culture.
Bear in mind that though these questions may be worded differently, the basic principles behind them will remain the same. Planning your answers to these in advance will help ensure that you don’t freeze up during crunch time!
Question #1: Why are you interested in joining Deloitte?
Try to be interesting. Many candidates will simply say “Deloitte is a global firm with a great reputation for excellence in the accountancy and consulting fields.” The thing is, Deloitte’s recruiters already know that! The question asks why YOU are personally interested in Deloitte.
Start by digging up current news stories and working forward from there. Let’s say you’re keen to reference Deloitte’s culture of innovation in your answer. Don’t just tell recruiters, “Well, I’m a huge fan of the innovative culture in Deloitte,” and leave it at that! Think a little deeper: what has Deloitte done specifically that evidences its innovative nature? For example, if Deloitte’s launch of Deloitte Digital interests you, explain why.
Stay away from generic answers. Telling recruiters that you’re interested in training for professional qualifications is fine, but remember that all of Deloitte’s competitors can offer you the same thing! You need to explain what it is about Deloitte’s training in particular that attracts you. How can Deloitte’s training benefit your personal career progression more than the training at one of their competitors?
Oh, and one more thing: never, ever answer with something that you’ve lifted straight from Deloitte’s own website.
Question #2: What do you expect to be doing in your first year in the service line you’re applying for?
Take note: the emphasis here is on what you will be doing specifically, rather than the service line you hope to be in as a whole.
To answer this, you need to be able to understand how your role fits into the wider scheme of things at Deloitte. You may already have laid out the blueprint for answering this in your response to the previous question. Now you just need to break things down even further.
Think in terms of case studies – if you were working as a junior member of a Deloitte team conducting the re-audit of a troubled company, what would you need to investigate to address any complications arising from the initial audit? Or, if you were a junior associate on a team working on a merger between two corporations, what kind of due diligence would be required from someone of your level?
Your responses must reflect the extent of your research and understanding of the role you are applying for. It should also show awareness of the types of training activities you will be involved in during your first year of work. Try to craft your answer in a way that demonstrates your familiarity with Deloitte’s corporate culture and the way they do things.
Question #3: Describe the key responsibilities and achievements you achieved in a previous job.
Expand on the positions of responsibility you’ve listed in your CV. Remember that “responsibility” is a subjective term – suitable experiences could range from project managing a large team, helping a past employer roll out a new product, or running an event for a university society.
Bear in mind that Deloitte wants to see details that are relevant to both the firm in general and the service line you are applying for. If, for example you’re going for a position involving more research than client contact (such as the valuation group in Deloitte’s corporate finance department), your emphasis should be on positions or roles that involved the effective use of your research skills. Make sure you talk about the results that you achieved from putting those skills into practice, too!
Which Accountancy Specialisation Should You Choose?
Matching accountancy specialisations to your personality will help you find your niche!
Accountancy and financial management employers usually expect graduates to specify an area of specialisation during job applications – but what if you’re not sure which area to focus on?
You can start by referring to gradsingapore’s areas of work section to help you identify the different accountancy sectors. Employer websites also provide graduate references and links that may be useful.
For instance, KPMG prepares self-selection tests for applicants to figure out the area that suits them best before going through the assessment process. Grant Thornton, on the other hand, mentions in its FAQ that “tax attracts students of law or maths, and business studies students apply to audit.”
Your choice of degree and academic results will also greatly influence your area of specialisation. A career in consulting, for example, typically requires a degree with a foundation in mathematics, while forensic services prefers graduates with an IT-related degree.
It is also best to match your career to your personality. Those good with investigative work may like forensic finance, while auditing will suit graduates who are patient and have an eye for detail.
Here are some brief descriptions of the main specialisations in accountancy, matched with their most suitable personalities:
Assurance concerns the evaluation of the financial data and working procedures within a company that prepares financial documents informing current and potential investors if the shareholders’ money are being put to good use. Those with strong academics, good communication skills, and are self-confident will find compatibility with the job.
If you’re attentive to the latest business opportunities and market trends, and have strong analytical skills, then commercial finance may be right up your alley. Accountants in this field deal with consumer transactions and product/services analyses.
Employment opportunities are ample in sectors like retail, manufacturing, FMCG, and leisure, as they need to constantly analyse and innovate their products and services.
Corporate finance helps business organisations increase and manage their financial value through various purchasing and sales strategies. This field is best for candidates with a high level of confidence, excellent communication and numeracy skills, and the ability to work well under pressure.
There is a wide range of roles available: advisors supervising the raising of capital; accountants assessing the status of the accounts of target companies; lawyers maintaining the legal accuracy of transactions.
Corporate recovery is suitable for those with an interest in the way companies operate, are good negotiators, and can cope with complex and sensitive financial information. They’re there to help creditors, suppliers, or employees of failing businesses to salvage the most out of their remaining capital. Accountants in this field are typically appointed through referrals from banks, lawyers, and accountants.
Corporate treasurers secure the financial stability of a business organisation by ensuring that it has enough cash to meet the company’s needs at all times. They’re tasked with monitoring the liquidity of the company’s finances and keeping track of its commercial progress so that they can estimate the funds needed for it. Those with a good foundation in business and economics, excellent analytical skills, and the ability to perform under pressure will fit well here.
Financial accountants are tasked with analysing and documenting business transactions to gather information about a company’s performance, and then share it with shareholders for investment purposes. For this reason, employees in this sector have to be inquisitive, analytical, good communicators, and willing to question the existing processes within an organisation.
Forensic accountants help clients work out financial problems like fraud, disagreements, and suspected transgressions, and suits those who like investigative work. Communication skills is also necessary to effectively explain complex concepts to clients from a non-finance background. Additionally, if you find that you can maintain impartiality no matter the situation, then this is the field for you.
Internal audit is suitable for those with an eye for detail, and still able to see the bigger picture, are good at business management, and have effective communication skills. Accountants in this field are responsible for monitoring key business areas and reporting its progress to aid the management’s decision-making. They may also be consulted to assess whether the business is being operated inefficiently or fraudulently.
Typically, this field looks for employees who are level-headed, decisive, analytical, and able to simplify complex financial information. Management accounting uses accounting information to make informed decisions for a better implementation of performance management strategies. Candidates should also possess relevant skill sets such as strategic planning, managerial skills, on top of good accounting abilities.
Risk assessment is involved whenever organisations need to determine, comprehend, and manage risks so as to forestall oncoming crises, thereby allowing companies to capitalise on existing and potential commercial opportunities. It is most suited for those with a cautious and detailed nature, and able to consider every factor before making a decision.
If you have good analytical, problem-solving and interpersonal skills, and a knack for discretion, then tax advisory may be for you. Tax advisers are usually engaged as consultants to advise businesses on their tax problems and offer one-off solutions. They may also be hired as a long-term staff to monitor the taxation requirements made on their clients.
Which Accountancy Firm has the Best Graduate Jobs?
From the size and working culture of the organisation to the kinds of study packages on offer, consider these criteria to determine which graduate job in accountancy is the best fit for you.
Most graduates on a job hunt know well enough to make “research, research, and research” their employment mantra, finding out what they can about the commercial goals and growth of the company, their products and services, their working culture, as well as the general development of the industry.
However, many graduates often slip up is making their research far too employer-centric. This means that they end up spending too much time thinking about whether they are right for the employer, whether they have the necessary qualifications, or whether they can really contribute anything to the firm.
While these are certainly important factors to consider, trying too hard to impress recruiters with what you have to offer isn’t necessarily going to land you the job. Rather, you’ll have a huge advantage in the selection process if you can demonstrate that you are not just “right” for the firm, but that the firm is genuinely right for you!
Spend some time considering these following matters before you settle on your choice:
The size of the firm
It’s safe to say that most graduate accountants will, at some point or another,try to find employment with the Big Four: Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC; the four globalkey players and the most well-known employers within the international accountancy sector.
Their intakes are very popular with interns and graduates; if you’re interested in working with them, you need to start preparing your application early.
However, apart from the Big Four, Singapore’s accountancy industry is also vastly populated by other robustly-growing small and medium-sized practices (SMPs) such as BDO, RSM Chio Lim, Foo Kon Tan Grant Thornton LLP, and PKF-CAP.
Don’t be taken in by the stereotype that bigger always equals better! Different-sized firms will offer varying forms of benefits and compensation, so you need to first determine what kind of benefits that you can or cannot negotiate.
Generally, working with a smaller firm gives you the opportunity to gain a wider range of experience, as you will be asked to assist in a variety of tasks and duties – not necessarily confined to only your job description. By contrast, a large global firm may offer you more opportunity to travel overseas.
Consider also if you want to work in the public or the private sector. Just as how size will affect the kind of benefits that you get as an employee, the type of sector that you work in will also influence your remuneration, the type of exposure that you’ll get, and your working environment.
Be sure to ask plenty of questions during the job interview about company culture and the type of people you’ll be working with, as well! It’s important to genuinely be able to like your co-workers and superiors if you want to succeed in your new workplace – especially since a large portion of accountancy work requires you to work in teams.
One of the most important criteria that you should consider while applying for employment is the training and development programmes that your potential employers are offering. Gaining the necessary professional qualifications and fundamental skill sets during your first few years as an accountant is of utmost importance, as these will determine your work excellence, and subsequently, your career advancement.
Find out how much the hiring firm is willing to invest in their employees’ education.Some firms are willing to pay all your exam and tuition fees as you work towards chartered accountant qualifications.Othersmay only choose to offer partial funding support, but may compensate by granting you a significant period of study leave during exam periods.
Aside from external qualification exams, check out any on-the-job training programmes that the firm offers as well.Find out if you will get chances to pick up specific skill sets that you may be hoping to acquire, should you decide to work with this particular firm.
While larger accountancy firms tend to have the resources to offer more appealing training packages, the trade-off is that they may have higher expectations in terms of your exam results and how quickly they expect you to qualify! Most will also require you to be bonded to the company for a certain period of time.
In contrast, smaller firms may not be able to offer such attractive education benefits, but may make up for byoffering you greater flexibility with regards to tailoring your study programmesor acquiringactual industry experience to supplement your theoretical knowledge. It all depends on what you’re willing to commit yourself to!
Job fulfilment can be a rather vague notion as different people will describe the idea differently. In general, though, a fulfilling career will allow you to not only perform work that you enjoy and are good at, but will also encourage you to make positive contributions to other people – whether internally (in the office), or externally (amongst your clients and customers).
In addition to that, a fulfilling career will never let you be stagnant at a certain professional level for too long. You should be expected to grow and take on more responsibilities in the long run.
Your research into a firm’s background should give you a rough idea of the sense of job fulfilment at the company. Make it a point to speak to or network with people from a variety of firms when you get the opportunity to go to career fairs and employer presentations. This will give you a better insight into their working life, as well as the satisfaction that they derive from their jobs at their respective firms.
You could also consider drawing up a list of important benefits that are essential to you, such as the continuing education prospects, career advancement opportunities, and travel opportunities offered.Then, do the necessary research to find out more about how well each firm addresses these criteria.
Alternatively, you could also ask your interviewer during interviews. Use this as your checklist or yardstick to determine how interested you are in working with the firm over the long term.
Other questions to think about
- What sort of work do I want to do?
- Also, what kind of workload am I willing to put up with?
- What sort of clients do I want to/am I willing to work with?
- Do I want more exposure dealing with clients from a specific industry over others?
- Am I looking to specialise in a particular branch of accountancy, or do I prefer something more general where I can experience more lines of work but less intensively?
- Am I able to integrate myself with the working culture of the firm?
- What is my ultimate career objective, and can working with this firm help me fulfil it?
(With thanks to Richard Irwin, senior recruitment manager at PwC, and Richard Evans, associate director of Grant Thornton, for their help on this article.)
Pursuing a Postgraduate Degree in Accountancy
Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons of pursuing an accountancy postgraduate programme to help you decide if it's worth the investment.
There has been a rising preference amongst accountancy and financial management undergraduates to opt for postgraduate studies before joining the workforce, believing that it will give them an edge in their employment prospects.
Is postgraduate-level study really the way to go, though?
Many accountancy and financial management employers rarely look for postgraduate qualifications in their graduate applicants, preferring to provide internal training so that you can pick up organisation-specific skills that can aid the company in the best way possible.
For this reason, thoroughly consider the motives and objectives of doing further study so that you’re able to promote your qualification as a selling point at future interviews.
Good reasons to continue
- Driven by interest
Postgraduate studies is suitable for those who are driven by a strong interest to explore a particular aspect of the industry. Do research the contents of your course thoroughly prior to your application to be sure that it matches your scholarly expectations.
- Networking opportunity
Gaining networking opportunities and new contacts is another valid reason. Alternatively, if you’re looking to cross over from non-finance or unrelated industries, postgraduate studies may also be beneficial for you.
- Gain a specialist skill
Postgraduate studies is also for students looking to gain a specialist skill. The skillset may prove useful later on in your career, but make sure to balance the newfound expertise with practical work experience to successfully promote yourself as a well-rounded worker.
Bad reasons to continue
- To bury bad undergrad grades
If you’re taking on a postgrad to make up for poor undergraduate results, you may want to reconsider. Recruiters look for consistent academic ability instead of sudden spikes of excellence, so good results during your postgraduate years does not exempt unsatisfactory undergraduate results.
- Avoidance mentality
Opting for a postgrad just because you are unwilling to face the difficult hiring climate is a definite no-no. Most people who do this generally lack a clear motive for taking on the course, and as such, will not be able to satisfactorily justify their extended education to future hiring managers.
- Misconceived expectations
Some candidates think that a postgrad is a certain way of boosting your employability, but this is not true. In the current job market, a postgraduate degree is not a definite factor in providing a competitive edge for jobseekers. If anything, internships/past work experiences and soft skills have more of an impact in determining your worth to recruiters.
How postgraduate study could help your graduate job application:
- Intellectual capacity: The fact that you’ve furthered your study can demonstrate your intellectual capacity to employers, and your deeper understanding of selected concepts may add value to your job.
- Tenacity: Postgraduate programmes usually involve a strenuous process of research, so it may stand as an indicator of tenacity. The sustained effort of working on a dissertation or thesis also implies good self-discipline, organisational, and time management skills – especially if you did your postgrad studies while working a job.
- Soft skills: Presenting papers and group assignments are effective in improving your soft skills, including communication and ability for teamwork – both of which are top skills wanted by recruiters.
- Wider network: Additional training modules and conferences are good avenues for you to not only add to your knowledge of your industry, but also network with industry colleagues.
Choosing your university and course wisely
If you’ve settled on doing your postgraduate studies, then it’s time to research on potential universities and courses. There is a large variety of courses to choose from, each with different course structures, requirements, as well as expectations of its students.
NUS’ accountancy programme, for instance, is more business administration-oriented. This promises a broader module and a more extensive choice of research.
NTU, on the other hand, possesses an established staff for you to draw assistance and advise from. Intakes, however, are usually large, which limits access to the selection of supervisors for your dissertation or thesis.
Lastly, SMU offers a different mode of teaching, with seminars and conferences acting as an integral part of the course.
Postgraduate study checklist
When choosing a course, here are some things to consider investigating and comparing:
- How to fund your study
- Reputation of institution and facilities offered
- Its teaching and research ratings
- Course content and structure (take note of their core and supplementary electives)
- Career paths and salaries of alumni
- Networking opportunities, industry affiliations, and collaborations with other universities
- Your target employer’s preferred subject/course when employing staff
Getting a Graduate Job in Accounting
If you think you’re fluent in the “language of businesses”, a.k.a. accounting, and are looking for a graduate job in the industry, here are some tips to get you started.
Regardless of the size of the company, accountants play a vital role in every business organisation. Accountants function in several settings – whether by working in firms that service external clients or by being part of the finance department of either a commercial or public sector organisation.
A career in accountancy would suit you well if you’re keen on helping business organisations make sound economic decisions through monitoring and reporting a company’s finances. Accountants need to be adept at accumulating the necessary information for businesses to decide on how to effectively manage their finances and plan for the future.
On the other hand, a career in financial management would involve the strategic planning and management of a company’s funds to facilitate efficient operations. Essentially, you will be assisting the company direct the flow of its finances towards achieving the organisation’s objectives.
What skills do I need to work in accounting and financial management?
Besides numeracy and analytical skills, accountants also need to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to effectively convey reports and act in the capacity of a business advisor. Additionally, having good time management and organisational skills will help you through busy peak periods.
Commercial awareness of the business will also give you a good point of reference when dealing with your clients. And as in all other jobs, being able to work in teams as well as possessing initiative and being motivated are coveted skills in the industry.
How do I get the job?
The most common path to becoming a qualified accountant is to apply for a graduate programme with an accountancy firm. Public and private companies also recruit graduates for accountancy roles in their finance departments.
One of the most important criteria when choosing a programme or company is whether it offers you the opportunity to undertake courses that will help you qualify as a Chartered Accountant (CA) in Singapore.
Several factors will affect your decision on which places to apply to; click here to find out more about whether joining one of the Big Four or an SME would be better for you.
The application process
Depending on the firm, employers either use online application forms or request personalised CVs and cover letters for the preliminary selection process. If you successfully stand out, you will be invited for a first round of interview.
At some stage in the process, you could be asked to complete various tests, such as general ability, numeric or verbal reasoning tests, aptitude tests and personality tests. Further interviews might follow as employers go through the process of sifting through potential candidates.
Many organisations accept applications all year round, but it’s always worth checking with individual employers – a few do specify early closing dates or advise early applications.
Also, before applying for a position in a firm, doing an internship would help you get a better idea of whether a career in accounting or financial management would play to your strengths.
What are the different areas of work?
There are a wide range of disciplines to choose from and within each area there are different roles on offer. Some firms might ask you to specify which area you’d like to pursue during the application process, while companies with graduate programmes might let you gain experience in different fields to have a better idea of what’s out there.
Here are some fields for your consideration:
- Commercial finance
- Corporate finance
- Corporate recovery
- Corporate treasury
- Financial accounting
- Forensic accounting
- Internal audit
- Management accounting
- Professional services IT
- Public sector accounting
- Risk assessment
What’s working life like?
In an accountancy firm, you can expect to spend a substantial amount of time out of the office visiting and auditing clients on-site. Working in finance departments in commercial or public companies would involve playing an integral role as part of the larger organisation.
In both instances, there may be off-peak and peak periods – the latter would mean a heightened level of pressure during busier times such as financial quaterlies and closing of accounts at year ends. Such periods aside, however, accountants generally enjoy a reasonable work-life balance.
A Graduate's Guide to Accountancy Jargon
Employers won't expect you to sound like an industry veteran in job interviews, but it will help if you know some accounting and financial management buzzwords.
The accountancy industry possesses, like any other industries, an exclusive pool of jargon and acronyms that are accessible only to those who have spent some time working within the field. Some terms are also company-specific, which means that only the company staff are privy to their meaning, often excluding outsiders and the newbies at the organisation.
For this reason, graduates are usually discouraged from using jargon during their interviews due to the risk of misusing them. Applicants sometimes get ensnared by the false perception that they will sound more educated when they riddle their speech with corporate mumbo jumbo, but this only exposes them to the risk of sounding like someone who is trying too hard to impress the interviewer.
However, this does not mean that you should completely shun all traces of job-speak during your interview either! Instead, feel free to sprinkle your replies with some industry-specific terms so that you will come across as educated and updated, but not trying to butter up to your interviewer.
Here, is a list of common accounting and financial management lingo that may help boost your level of confidence as you walk into the interview room:
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
Association of Taxation Technicians Singapore
Accredited Tax Advisor. A professional certification awarded by the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals (SIATP).
Accredited Tax Practitioner. Another professional certification awarded by the SIATP.
Accountancy revolves around the process of determining, evaluating, and conveying important economic findings to relevant parties so as to help them make informed decisions. It examines the interaction between variousfinancial elements in order to produce a summary of an organisation’s commercial health.
The three main processes of accountancy are:
- Determining information: The accounting procedure begins with the collecting and the recording of data,.Economic transactions are documented in a set of “accounts” that operate on a system known as “double-entry book keeping”.
- Evaluating information:The accountant then assignseconomic values to the data gathered,such as valuing available assets and calculating the amount of profit or loss that a business has made during a specified period of time (usually referred to as a fiscal/financial year).
- Conveying information: Information is useless if not disseminated. Once the relevant data has been properly evaluated and documented, the accounting information obtained will be broadcasted and circulated amongst users of the information in a variety of ways.(e.g. management accounts and financial statements)
Acquisitions is a component of a business specialisation called mergers and acquisitions (M&A), the counselling of clients on the purchase and sales of other businesses. Acquisitions usually involve a wide variety of deals – from the buyouts of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to multinational takeovers.
An individual who contributes capital to the start-up of a company in exchange fornon-cash returns, such as ownership equity and convertible bonds.
Audit is the examination and validation of the accuracy of abusiness’ financial statements, done primarily for tax purposes. Its primary purpose is to confirm that the financial statements of the corporation are a true and fair reflection of the organisation’s financial health.
Usually performed by an external accountancy firm in order to guarantee impartiality, audits are the main assignments of accountants working under assurance and advisory work, and are usually performed at a client’s premise.
The person in charge of organising and managing the audit teams – usually ranging from 2 to 20 people per team. Audit managersensure that all the audits are properly completed,and must also build and maintain a good relationship with the client on the side. They are also responsible for guiding the audit team to its full potential.
The senior member/partner of the audit firm who gives the final confirmation during an audit process, in order to certify the accuracy of the client’s financial statements.
Business recovery and insolvency
Business recovery experts are usually brought in when a troubled business can still be steered through its difficulties towards a revival and/or improvements.
Insolvency experts, on the other hand, are brought in when the business is caught in a bad enough state that it has to wind up. It then falls upon the insolvency experts to help the proprietors through the liquidation process, by selling off marketable assets to pay creditors.
This is a mixed package of accounting and auditing services that are generally offered to major companies, as these bigger organisations tend to need additional services for the development of their business. It may also entail advisory/consultancy services where the provider will customise financial recommendations to suit the growth, goals, and the improvement of a specific company’s management systems.
Capital gains tax
The tax that is charged when a fixed asset is sold at a higher price than its acquisition price. While this specific form of tax is not applicable in Singapore, any gains a local company makes by selling off assets will still be taxed as incoming revenue.
Chartered Accountant of Singapore. This qualification is managed by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ISCA).
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
The Chartered Institute of Taxation. While accreditation from this organisation is not mandatory for tax practitioners in Singapore, its CTA certification (see relevant term below) is still recognised locally, and may be useful for those intending to work in tax outside of Singapore.
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.While this organisation is UK-based, it does cooperate with global accounting bodies to advance the field of public sector accountancy worldwide.
An Australia-headquartered accounting body offering the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) qualification.
The last step during an audit process, where auditors carry out a final check to ensure that the audit is satisfactorily completed, and that sufficient audit evidence has been compiled for a sound audit opinion to be formed.
The process of preparing and compiling sets of financial statements
This is the field of finance that business organisations turn to when they want to buy other businesses. A firm of accountants – usually the purchaser’s auditors – will be appointed by the purchaser to evaluate the financial health of the target organisations prior to the actual acquisition. These auditors will also be responsible for communicating the takeover details and negotiating a decent purchase price with the target organisation.
Corporate recovery teams are usually roped in to assist companies in financial difficulties and bring them back on track. They are usually engaged during the early stages of a company’s crisis as chances of recovery are typically higher at that point.
On the other hand, should a company be left with no option but to close up, the recovery team will assist with the selling of assets, the laying off of staff, and the winding up of the company in general.
A levy that is charged to a company’s profits. Managed by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), different rates of tax are charged for different types of businesses, and for different levels of profit.
Chartered Tax Advisor – an expert in taxation matters who has obtained certification from the Chartered Institution of Taxation (CIOT). In Singapore, tax specialists are governed by the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals (SIAPT).
Debtors ledgers are used to document the details of an organisation’s debtors.
When a company trades off its asset(s), or when a corporation is liquidating a part of their company.
The process of enquiries performed when a potential investor/buyer wants to invest in/acquire a company. They will want to check the previous records and financial statements of the target company so as to ascertain its exact value, or to unearth underhanded business deals.
This will usually entail professional reports by accountants and solicitors, and the whole process must betreated with utmost confidentiality.
Financial accounting is a catch-all term for the recording of economic transactions performed by a business (i.e. bookkeeping), and the subsequent preparation of financial statements from those accounts.
The financial information obtained from this form of accounting is usually targeted towards other user groups (e.g. the business owners, company shareholders, or IRAS) instead of the company’sexecutive management.
Also referred to as a financial year. It consists of a period of 12 consecutive months which a business organisation selects as its accounting period, and doesn’t necessarily have to follow the calendar year.
Physical assets that are used in a company’s operations, usually lasting for more than a year.
Forensic accounting is a field of accountancy that caters to solving civil, criminal, and insurance issues. Those who are working in this field will employ their knowledge of accountancy, information technology, and investigation skills to aid in the examination of evidences in regards to an allegation that was made in court.
Their clients are mostly lawyers and insurance companies, although they may, sometimes, be approached by individuals who are seeking for such services for personal disputes.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales
A percentage of levies charged on net personal and business revenue
Tax that is charged on the properties that a person receives through inheritance or legal succession, usually determined by the current value of the possessions. Singapore used to refer to this as estate tax, but abolished this tax in 2008.
When an institution or individual is unable to meet its debts and financial commitments once they are due. This is highly related to a company’s liquidity. Debts are paid through cash, so even if a company’stotal assets surpasses its sum of liability, the organisation will still be considered insolvent if the assets cannot be converted into immediate cash to pay off its liabilities.
Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore
Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants
Management accounting is about providing financial information to the executive management of a business. Accountants are required to generate both regular and specially-requested reports to assist the management as they monitor the company’s performance andplan future business pursuits.
From an accountancy standpoint, management consultancy refers to the activity of engaging qualified accountants for their advice on other matters regarding the management of a company. This can range from financial strategy planning to human resource issues, as well as marketing and IT-related matters.
These accountants are usually expected to possess quite a bit of business experience so that they will be able to givemore in-depth advice to their customers. As such, this is a role that only senior accountants with years of exposure to various businesses will be able to play.
Medium-tier businesses that are too big be considered an SME, but not big enough to be publicly-listed.
Not for profit
Non-profit organisationsinclude clubs, societies, and associations that are created for the purpose of assisting social growth and improvement. They usually champion social welfare and charity issues, and rarely gain profit.
Even if they do make revenue from the activities they run, any money made must not be used for personal benefit of the proprietor. Rather, the money should be channeled back to organisation to be used for the benefit of society.
Pay-As-You-Earn – an income tax payment system where an employee’s tax and other national insurance contributions are deducted from his or her wages before it is paid out to the employee.
Private client services
A service that caters to high net-worth individuals where the accountants engaged will manage the customers’ accounts and investments for them, as well as construct long-term financial planning that is personalised to their needs and goals.
Loosely termed as “freelancing” accountants. Such practices provide accountancy services to clients as independent professional consultants, instead of as the employees of a firm.
Public sector accountancy
The practice of accountancy in the government, local authorities, as well as public corporations.
The initial funds used for the establishment of a company. It usually comes from the founder’s (or co-founders’) personal assets, but can also be made by banks, venture capitalists, or angel investors.
Singapore Qualification Programme – a compulsory programme to take if one wants to practise as a chartered accountant in Singapore.
Tax work is usually divided into two major disciplines:
- Tax compliance: This area of taxation work entails filling in and submitting tax returns on behalf of his or her clients. Duties include compiling the necessary documents required for fillings, ensuring compliance with tax agency requirements, and informing clients if there are any tax changes which affect them.
- Tax advisory and planning: This is a consultancy-oriented area of work, where tax professionals will analyse a company’s financial accounts and recommend changes as to how their clients can structure their finances for minimum taxation within the boundaries of local legislation.
These two tax disciplines are not isolated from each other.In fact, if they are to provide the best service for their clients, cooperation from both sides are necessary. Tax professionals working tax compliance will sometimes need to refer to tax advisors for updated information during the course of their work, and vice versa.
Workload-wise, tax professionals tend to spend more time working within the office, and keep regular hours better than auditors do. There are also numerous sub-specialisations within the area of tax, each with their own specific set of jargon.
A person’s tax commitments, derived mainly from their owned properties and their earned income.
Financial Accounting: Graduate Area of Work
Constantly assessing and evaluating the performance of the business organisation.
Financial accounting is primarily concerned with the regular analysis and the reporting of a company’s financial state. The reports produced measure the “health” of the company and will offer crucial information about the performance of the business organisation, which are important to external investors such as shareholders and banks. Through these reports, they are able to evaluate if it is worth investing further in the company.
Other business organisations, such as suppliers, also rely on these reports to decide if they want to continue providing their products and services to a business organisation, or if it would be safe for them to extend any form of credit.
The information gained from these reports also keeps the company’s internal management up to date about the cash flow of the company, which is crucial to the decision-making process. Ultimately, financial accounting ensures the transparency of a business organisation’s accounts and keeps it accountable to both its partners and customers.
In Singapore, the practice of financial accounting is governed by the Accounting Standards Committee (ASC). They are responsible for formulating Singapore’s Finance Reporting Standards (FRS), a standard that should be adhered to by all practicing financial accountants in Singapore.
Financial accountants usually find employment in departments such as auditing, treasury management and cash flow, as well as the reporting of new or potential acquisitions.
You will generally start your job with a training programme that allows you to acquire an overall understanding of your company’s business, enabling you to observe the way finances are associated with other departments.
As with most finance positions, you will also be required to pursue the necessary professional qualifications as you train on-the-job.
Your first few years as a financial accountant is generally quite hectic as you will be required to put in plenty of hard work, most of which will involve number-crunching duties. Some of your other duties will also include forecasting account balances, statutory reporting, and controlling direct and indirect taxes.
After you have started specialising in a specific area, however, your work will be determined by the projects that you are involved with.
It is necessary for you to have an analytical mind and good numeracy skills, but even more important is your ability to pay attention to details and to communicate complex findings in layman’s terms.
Financial accountants have to be able to draw relevant conclusions based on the little details found in their analysis of the company’s accounts and report these findings in a comprehensive manner to senior management.
Working in Singapore will also require you to be familiar with Singapore’s FRS, accounting systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), and other relevant government policies. Your willingness to develop interdepartmental relationships will also be an added point.
Ups and downs
Pressure to perform and a hectic early work life are two challenges to starting off in financial accounting, but the amount of work will help ground you with a wide range of relevant knowledge and skills, particularly technical accounting and leadership skills.
The comprehensive nature of this line of work will also prepare you for the future if you decide to branch off to and specialise in other areas of accountancy.
Corporate Treasury: Graduate Area of Work
The “treasurer” department of the business organisation: keeping immediate cash for priorities and necessities.
Corporate treasury is a company’s internal division, characterised by its responsibilities in ensuring that there is sufficient immediate cash to fund the company’s priorities and demands. This involves constant monitoring of the liquidity of the company’s finances, as well as cautious managing of its various monetary risks.
Additionally, corporate treasurers are often required to advise on and prepare financial policies and controls that can aid in funding the company.
It is also the job of a corporate treasurer to look into the assistances that financial service providers are (and will be) providing to companies in order to reinforce their financial security. As such, they will often have to be attentive to new loan schemes, foreign exchange rates, banking and credit facilities that have been released so as to keep a company’s financial plans updated.
Most graduates who enter corporate treasury begin as treasury analysts or treasury accountants, where they will receive on-the-job training. You are also expected to take professional qualifications on the sidewith the Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT) or other equivalent professional bodies in order to advance in your position.
At entry level, you will usually start with general duties such as cash management and providing financial advice to other areas of the business. As you climb up the corporate ladder and begin to assume a more specialised position, however, your duties will become more diversified, depending on the projects and cases that you are handling at a particular time.
On most occasions, you will have to work closely with the senior management and manage large sums of money.
Because a corporate treasurer’s work is largely tied to the company they work for, you can typically expect stable eight-to-five office hours. However, as with most jobs, you will have to work longer hours when you have an important deadline to achieve.
You will need to be well-informed of your company’s goals, the recent business climate, and condition of the international banking sector. This will indirectly improve your decision-making skills, thus helping you avoid pitfalls and potholes in the market, especially during forecasting sessions and pooling arrangements.
Though it would be to your advantage if you happen to possess basic accounting knowledge, that is usually not a prerequisite. Equally important is the ability to work to procedures and to simplify complex matters for the benefit and comprehension of senior management.
Ups and downs
This position entails a close working relationship with your company’s senior management, which means that — depending on company culture — you may often be pressured to perform. Anxiety can also come due to the responsibility of handling large sums of money during transactions.
Working in corporate treasury, however, gives you a broad overview of the inner workings of business organisations, especially through the allocation of their funds. This is a line of work that remains largely unchanged yet necessary across various industries, so it offers you plenty of flexibility with regards to potential employers over the course of your career.
Corporate Finance: Graduate Area of Work
Working in lead advisory, transaction support, and compliance roles to help your business interest increase its capital and shareholder value.
The principal purpose of corporate finance is to monitor the capital structure of a business organisation, and to increase its shareholder value through the sales and purchasing of its investments and securities. The selling of bonds, debentures, and common stocks falls under the scope of this field.
Those working in this area – which spans a broad spectrum of positions – will also advise a company’s shareholders or owners in the issues of mergers, acquisitions, and management buy-outs so as to increase the company’s worth and sustainability. They will also assist in the process of all the above exchanges, providing recommendations and analysis as and when necessary.
With the steady growth in Singapore’s economy in recent years and the government’s safety interventions in securities investment, corporate finance is looking to be a considerably lively sector.
Corporate finance is a field that is populated by wide range of people including positions such as lead advisors (lead advisory), accountants and auditors (transaction support), and even lawyers (compliance) – all working towards one goal, i.e. capital-raising. Each position serves different functions and contributes todifferent parts of the process.
Lead advisors, for instance, will manage and advise on the process of capital-raising, thus serving a consulting function. Their job is primarily focused on analysing the situation of the market before letting a business organisation know about the best and safest way to go about raising their capital.
Advisors will help organisations determine whether they should invest or let go a particular business line or asset in order to obtain cash, or obtain loans from a bank. Lead advisors know the financial landscape best, and should be able to match a firm’s capital-raising strategies with its risk appetite.
Accountants and auditors, in contrast, perform transaction support work, where they are responsible for verifying the financial security of potential merger companies. They perform “undercover” labour, where they look into the accounts of companies that have expressed interest in merging or getting acquired.
They check to make sure that the accounts of these companies are “clean” – free of fraud allegations – and are, therefore, safe for acquisition.
Lawyers, on the other hand, attend to the legal aspects of these transactions. If you do become a lawyer within corporate finance, it will be your job to make sure that your business organisation complies with all the legal aspects of the law – whether during mergers, acquisitions, or any other transactions.
Corporate finance lawyers need to be aware of all the red tapes and loopholes that the law offers so as to guide their company successfully through a particular transaction.
Ultimately, you will need to acquire sector-specific expertise if you intend to pursue a career in corporate finance, most of which will be obtained when you take up the professional qualifications needed for your post.
Aside from the sector-specific qualifications that you need for your position, working in corporate finance will also require you to be an excellent communicator as you will be interacting with very different groups of people all the time.
You need to be both influential and persuasive when meeting brokers or striking deals with interested parties, and be able to communicate successfully with colleagues who may not have finance backgrounds.
Confidence is another important trait as you will need to carry yourself with professionalism when meeting clients. This often comes naturally as you gain familiarity and experience in the area of your work. Being able to work in teams and to adapt quickly are also positive traits to have.
Equally important are good numeracy skills, analytical skills and a solid understanding of the area of business that both your company or potential merger companiesare involved in. Career progression at a senior level depends a lot on your ability to network and to generate deal flow.
Ups and downs
Long hours and prolonged pressure are some of the more unfavourable aspects of corporate finance, but these are tempered by advantages such as the opportunity to experience working within a team comprised of different professional backgrounds.
This includes working closely with your superiors, which translates to less rank-oriented tension and a friendlier superior-subordinate relationship in your workplace. The pressure to do well, however, is also amplified as your performance may be constantly monitored.
Corporate Recovery: Graduate Area of Work
Doctoring ailing businesses back to health.
Corporate recovery is a profession that provides assistance to ailing businesses through the various stages of their financial difficulties, usually appointed through the recommendations of banks, lawyers, and accountants.
Specialists in this field are responsible for analysing the state of the business and advising on the subsequent steps to take in relation to the situation. In situations where they believe it is possible to rescue a company, they will then suggest a range of corporate, debt, and equity restructuring strategies in order to better help achieve the company’s business objectives. If recovery is not feasible, it also falls upon them to help the company salvage as much monetary worth as possible from the remaining assets to repay any outstanding debts.
In Singapore, the Insolvency Practitioners Association of Singapore (IPAS) exists to provide guidelines and training for both existing and aspiring corporate recovery specialists.
Working in the field of corporate recovery is usually a very exciting and challenging experience as you may find yourself managing cases that vary from multinational companies to small chain stores. Depending on the scale of the case, you may sometimes work with a large or small group of colleagues.
You will be involved in the entire process of recovery and rescue, from corporate re-organisation, debt restructuring, and informal discussions to formal insolvency procedures. As you work longer, however, you will be expected to specialise in a chosen sector.
Graduates with business- and economics-related have an added advantage in seeking employment, but students from other degrees with outstanding negotiation skills may also find a job in this field. Good people and persuasion skills are of utmost importance as you will be doing a lot of negotiation while on the job, especially with stakeholders, creditors, and laid-off employees.
Being able to analyse complex financial information and to work in flexible settings will also be advantageous to you.
The ability to empathise and yet to remain firm with your directives is tremendously important as you will often have to interact with staff who may soon be losing their jobs.
Ups and downs
As it is with most jobs, you will have to contend with the pressure that comes with the work since you will usually be handling several cases at one time, which means that prioritising is very important. The nature of the business changes you are required to implement may mean that you will often have to deal with emotional and upset employees and sometimes have to pitch difficult decisions to reluctant managers.
On a more positive note, you get to expand your network and also learn about trending markets in real-time, which will help you tremendously in the running if you intend to work up to consultancy level in the practice.