The past year has seen persistent growth in Malaysia’s economy, and predictions are that this will continue in the coming year. A major factor attributed to this is in how Malaysia’s status as a regional business hub is also growing, with multi-national companies showing a greater representation in the area, all of which is combining to drive a high demand for Accountancy & Finance positions in a number of industries, according to Aaron Chen, Senior Manager – Accountancy & Finance, Hays Malaysia: “Right now, Malaysia is a booming economy, and much of this growth is driven by manufacturing,” explains Aaron. “Because of this, companies are expanding and are thus finding it necessary to augment their accountancy teams, meaning that we are seeing companies request candidates to fill roles as finance managers and financial controllers, which is a really positive sign.”
Away from manufacturing, the shared services industry continues to be one of the key forces behind Malaysia’s economy, with financial shared service centres (FSSC) particularly prevalent. With low labour costs, a multi-lingual workforce – speaking Malay, English, Cantonese and Mandarin – and a high rate of certified accountants, there is no surprise that MNCs continue to base their FSSC operations in the country.
“There has been an increase in FSSCs over the years in Malaysia, but rather than slowing down it is an industry that is flourishing and requiring a number of positions filled, with accounts payable, accounts receivable and general leger professionals all needed. And these positions are across all levels, with demand for executives, team leaders or managers and even head roles required,” Aaron says. “It is a trend that we do not expect to slow, as we are increasingly seeing large MNCs approaching Hays for advice on SSC development, showing a great interest in the area. In addition, the government, through its MDEC agency, has formed a partnership with Hays so that together we can present to companies the advantages of bringing their FSSC to Malaysia, a project that has seen positive results.”
One of these advantages is the fact that up to 70 per cent of Malaysia’s accountancy professionals hold accredited certification, meaning that the workforce is a highly educated one. However, even with this impressive figure, the onus is on candidates without qualifications to improve. “More and more employers want their candidates to be qualified accountants, and for the most part that is not a problem. However, those without a professional body qualification are finding that potential employers are less interested,” Aaron explains. “Even if they have an impressive track record at a prestigious company, they are finding it increasingly difficult to land new positions. As a result, we are seeing an increasing number of candidates’ upskilling themselves and taking accreditation to ensure that they are able to land the next big role.”
Amongst those big roles are positions right across the spectrum, with a number of mid- and senior-level positions needing to be filled. “As well as being qualified, in a mid-level candidate companies want to see individuals with two or three years of experience in an auditing role at a Big Four company. After that they should have moved into a commercial business environment in a finance executive or assistant manager role before moving up the ranks to finance manager, taking control of a small team. They should have a strategic mindset, be hands-on with operational finance work, and not only manage their team well, but train and empower them,” Aaron explains. “For more senior level roles, successful candidates are those who have experience with financial planning and analysis, frequently partnering with other division heads. Crucially, they should be adding value to the overall business, increasing the company’s profit line through strategic finance, business building and feasibility studies into the acquisition of other companies.”
For candidates who possess these qualities and levels of experience, they will find that 2018 continues to hold opportunities for them. “Traditionally in Accountancy & Finance areas, particularly in financial services, we tend to see a cooling off in recruitment following the post-bonus rush as companies’ hiring budgets run out. However, this year we are not seeing this happen, which is a great indicator of the positivity in the market, and bodes well for the coming year.”
An overview of what other trends have been observed in Malaysia’s Accountancy & Finance sector can be viewed below.
• The Hays DNA of a CFO event held in August saw a high turnout, showing the interest that high-level individuals have in sharing and acquiring information on the industry.
• Within the FSSC space, there is a desire to upskill and develop staff with team building exercises, while exceptional individuals receive training on management style, presentation skills, communication and other soft skills.
• There is a niche, but growing, demand for foreign language speakers, with countries associated with the Belt and Road initiative – in particular Thailand, Vietnam and Japan – most represented.
• Due to it being a process driven and SLA heavy specialism, the FSSC sector is exploring robotic process automation with increasing interest.
• Companies are looking to improve their brand in a number of ways, from attending recruitment fairs to digital advertising, with investment in LinkedIn and JobStreet the most prevalent forms of augmenting brand awareness.