Opening Remarks by Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in The Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Finance at The Launch of The Jobs Transformation Maps for The Finance and Accounting Functions and Accounting Practices, 5 January 202205 Jan 2022
Mr Kon Yin Tong, President, Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a real pleasure to join you here today at the launch of the Jobs Transformation Maps for the Finance and Accounting sector.
Finance & Accounting Sector – an evolving industry with growth opportunities
2. It would be fair to say that today the Accounting profession stands at the cusp of transformation, the latest in a long evolutionary journey since Luca Pacioli first developed the double-entry book-keeping system.
3. Once considered to be primarily about book-keeping, tallying financial data and audit, today, the profession currently covers myriad other critical roles, including corporate governance, insolvency, consultancy, and other advisory services.
4. Many of these roles arose in the last two decades out of globalisation and crises.
5. Globalisation, rapid growth and the inter-connectedness of the global financial systems and international trade fuelled the need for international consultancy, and in parallel, cross-border insolvency work.
6. The Enron Scandal in 2001 birthed regulatory changes designed to strengthen internal financial controls and make corporate disclosures more reliable, thereby fuelling demand for, and the rise of, assurance services such as quality control, risk assessment and fraud detection.
7. The 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers and the Global Financial Crisis put the focus on the role and effectiveness of audit and valuation, leading to audit reforms and the need for quality valuation services, in particular intangible valuation. It also spawned off work in the M&A sector as well as restructuring.
8. Now, a decade on from the Global Financial Crisis, the world has changed dramatically, and the finance and accounting sector is at yet another watershed moment. You are now entering a post pandemic world, one that is driven by digitalisation and technology, and is grappling urgently with climate change. These drivers are set to reshape the accounting profession, while at the same time creating opportunities for those who are nimble enough, adaptive enough and willing enough to seize them.
9. Three key trends will redefine the sector in the years to come.
10. First, technology. COVID-19 has accelerated the rate of technology adoption in the Finance and Accounting sector.
a. In Singapore, the Singapore Accountancy Commission’s (SAC) latest survey of 707 accounting entities showed a marked increase in the adoption of technology.
b. New analytical tools have surfaced, allowing accountants to access financial data and perform checks faster and more efficiently than ever before.
c. Increasing automation also means many hitherto time-consuming tasks can now be done with the simple touch of the finger.
d. But this also means that new skillsets will be needed – to learn how to use these new tools, and analyse the data generated. It therefore behoves the individuals in these sectors to acquire as many of these relevant new skillsets as you can, as soon as you can.
a. Job seekers are re-evaluating what they want from working lives. The pandemic has given employees time for reflection and introspection. There is a desire for better work life balance, more flexible work arrangements, and a greater sense of fulfilment.
b. Already, the US and UK are experiencing what has been dubbed “The Great Resignation”. The US recorded 24 million workers quitting their jobs from April to September last year. In UK, resignations are at the highest level in 20 years.
c. While we have not quite seen the same phenomenon here, professional services – which typically involve long working hours under high pressure – should not ignore these signs. If firms want to take advantage of the growth opportunities that are on the horizon, they should pay serious attention to job redesign, the well-being of their employees, and strengthening of their internal culture to be in tune with the aspirations of accounting professionals.
a. With the global pandemic, natural disasters and effects of climate change, Environment, Social and Governance , or ESG, is an emerging area of interest.
i. Companies have started to look at sustainability obligations. Some go further to integrate sustainability considerations into their business strategies.
ii. They will need individuals with knowledge of sustainability reporting standards and disclosures, as well as a strong understanding of how sustainability impacts financial performance.
13. What do all these developments mean for the accounting profession?
a. For firms, what it means is that demand for accounting services will grow, both in volume and in scope – beyond the traditional bookkeeping to also assurance, sustainability reporting and financial analysis. But to capture these opportunities, firms must invest in new technology, upskill their accountants and improve work culture.
b. For finance and accounting professionals, what this means is that your job roles will become more diversified than before. You will need to harness the power of technology, and to pick up new skills in emerging areas like sustainability.
15. I am therefore pleased to announce the launch of the Jobs Transformation Maps or JTMs for the F&A sector. There will be two JTMs launched – one for the in-house Finance and Accounting functions, and another on Accounting Practices.
16. Jointly developed by the Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC) and Economic Development Board (EDB), in collaboration with Workforce Singapore (WSG) and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), the JTMs clearly lay out:
a. the key trends that are driving change in the F&A sector,
b. the impact of these trends on individual jobs,
c. the pathways for employers to transform jobs, and
d. the skills required by workers as job roles evolve.
18. The new JTMs will add to the existing JTMs that we already have launched for other sectors, such as wholesale trade, financial services, human resources and logistics.
19. Ernst & Young and Deloitte, who were commissioned to study the F&A sector, will share their findings in greater detail later. But let me briefly share how the Government will support the F&A sector to make this transformation.
20. As with any transformation effort, the first step is knowing where you are, where you want to be and then working out how to get there.
a. This is why we are launching the in-house Finance & Accounting Corporate and Individual Self-Assessment Questionnaires (SAQs).
i. This is an online assessment tool to assess the current level of F&A sophistication. There will be two versions – one for employers and one for F&A practitioners.
ii. The tool also identifies some actionable steps to progress to a desired level of transformation – for both employees and companies.
iii. The tool will be launched on EDB’s website next week, and I encourage all of you to use the tool to find out the stage of transformation you are at and what you can do to transform.
b. For individuals that prefer to speak to an advisor on jobs transformation, NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) will be setting up an Accountancy Career Hub in 1Q 2022. The advisors will offer one-on-one career guidance, for example, highlighting new career tracks and progression pathways, relevant for the individual.21. Once you know your current and desired stage of transformation, the next step then is to map out the plan to get there.
a. This is where the Accountancy Job Redesign Toolkit comes in.
i. WSG, EDB, SAC and the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA) have jointly developed a self-help toolkit, to provide step-by-step guides to implement job redesign.
ii. As a start, we will target the top four job roles that will likely be most affected by technology trends and require significant job redesign. The toolkit currently features two job roles, Accounts Executive, Senior Accounts Executive/ Accountant. The other two roles for Tax Associate and Audit Associate will be available in 1Q 2022.
a. For companies that require support to implement job redesign projects, WSG has curated a list of JR consultants that companies can consider engaging.
b. Companies can also receive funding support through the Productivity Solutions Grant for Job Redesign, PSG-JR, Successful projects will be funded at up to 80% of the JR consultancy costs, capped at $30,000 per enterprise.
c. With the support of WSG, SAC and ISCA, companies like Mazars and Corpworld have successfully completed job redesign initiatives.
i. Both companies implemented Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate accounting processes including report generation, resulting in significant time savings of 30% to 70%.
ii. With time freed up, Mazars and Corpworld helped their existing accounting teams build capabilities to enhance their job roles. Some started building RPA-specific capabilities like executing and developing their own RPA scripts. Others took the opportunity to build capabilities in advisory roles, such as data analytics to perform more in-depth analysis for clients.
iii. As you can see, these job redesign initiatives go beyond technology adoption. They also include the redesigning of jobs and equipping workers with new skills, to transform jobs while improving productivity.
a. Professional bodies, employers, and employees need to come together to adapt to these evolving trends such as the heightened focus on sustainability and technology advancement.
b. And the Government will play a catalytic role to support these efforts.
25. Together, we can work to equip individuals with the right skills and promote growth for the sector.
26. Thank you all very much and happy new year.
 For instance, 31% of firms adopted cloud accounting software in 2020, compared with 22% of firms in 2019.
 Source: Bloomberg. From the Great Resignation to Lying Flat, Workers Are Option Out. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-12-07/why-people-are-quitting-jobs-and-protesting-work-life-from-the-u-s-to-china. 8 Dec 2021.
 The Finance and Accounting JTM and Accounting Practices JTM will be the 5th and 6th JTMs launched. Four other JTMs on wholesale trade, financial services, human resources and logistics sectors were launched previously. WSG has plans to launch another nine JTMs covering retail, food manufacturing, infocomm and media, supply chain management, construction, facilities management, land transport, environmental services and tourism sectors.