Singapore has set up a high-level
government appointed board to help the city state become the
leading centre for professional accountancy services in Asia.

The Committee to Develop the Accounting Sector has embarked on
an 18 month high-level review led by Singapore Totalisator Board
chairman Bobby Chin, to work out how to become Asia’s main
accounting hub.

The committee is made up of 14 other senior representatives from
the accounting profession, business community, academia and the
public sector.

Seven of the panel members are practising accountants from the
Big Four, Grant Thornton and a Nexia member firm. The Institute of
Certified Public Accountants of Singapore is represented by
vice-president Ernest Kan.

Shirlynn Loo, from Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate
Regulatory Authority (ACRA), is leading the secretariat responsible
for the new committee. Loo said being an international financial
and business hub has been a key ambition and aspiration for
Singapore for some time. The initiative wants to build on the
city-state’s good geographical position connecting West and
East.

“We want to leverage on that [geographical advantage],
especially with emerging jurisdictions,” she said.

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By GlobalData

“We want to find out how we can put ourselves on the map,
especially with the Big Four, to find a niche for ourselves.”

ACRA research released in July last year provides some
indication of the size and potential for the industry’s growth in
Singapore.

It found accounting activities provided nearly 9,000 jobs in
2005 and the accounting sector grew 7 percent between 2005 and
2007.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry expects rapid growth for the
accounting sector based on its 2007 economic survey, which reported
that business services exports grew by more than 18 percent per
annum over the previous five years.

Loo said the new board will be consulting a broad range of
stakeholders from education providers to HR head-hunters and
accounting firms.

“There are no sacred cows – nothing will be left untouched, it
is a fundamental review so we want it to be as comprehensive as
possible,” she said.

The review will focus on three areas: services, talent and
education.

Services will centre on promoting Singapore as a key provider of
accounting services in Asia; talent will seek to position the city
state as the leading hub for international talent in the
accountancy field; and education will aim to develop it as a
regional education and professional training centre for
accountancy.

Part of this push is to create “vibrancy and competitiveness” in
the market, which means generating activities, economic value, new
initiatives and value-added education, Loo said.

Talent management is one of the topics being considered.

“As in many places, it takes at least 10 years to be partner,
for Generation Y it is too long, so we are thinking about how to
retain talent. We don’t need them to all become partners but we
need to look at the next generation of leaders and we want talent
to be retained in the audit profession as well as the wider
accountancy sector,” she said.

Loo said it is early days and nothing concrete has been produced
yet. The review’s findings are expected to be released in May
2010.

Nicholas Moody