Singapore Expats Forum

Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Discuss about getting a well paid job or career advancement. Ask about salaries, expat packages, CPF & taxes for expatriate.

nlr3169
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 15
Joined: Sat, 21 Feb 2015

Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby nlr3169 » Tue, 31 Mar 2015 12:05 am

@JRB. Thanks a ton again for presenting two different scenario. Need to introspect.

Finfin
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu, 06 Nov 2014

Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby Finfin » Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:34 am

JR8 wrote:
nlr3169 wrote:Thanks a lot for the very detailed reply. Need to do lots of homework before taking the plunge. That sacking, pink slipping and closing divisions etc are really scary.


I take it as a good sign that I haven't outright put you off yet! :)
Not that I was trying to, more a case of giving an insight that might be a little hard to come by elsewhere. That's something you might find, you'll see and hear a lot about the glamour and possible 'riches', but... who likes to discuss the negative aspects of their career, unless they're already mentally en-route for an exit. There's an expression, 'an hour on a trading floor is 57 minutes of utter boredom, and 3 minutes of sheer terror', just, most people won't tell you about the 57 minutes :)

My time was also perhaps unusual in that it spanned across what were repeat global shocks to the financial system, the £ being forced out of the 'ERM' (precursor to the Euro), the Russian Crisis, Asian Crisis, and the aftermath of 9/11, which was it for me. Off the top off my head in total these shockwaves seemed to occur each three years: 1989/92/95/98/2001. In more recent times they seem to have been far less frequent, but one shouldn't ever discount such things happening again. Hence my conclusion that banking is not a 'career', in that it isn't something someone does for life, and the longer you stay in it, the tougher the fight to remain in it becomes.

So with that in mind if it is something that you decide you wish to do, you might consider the scenario of two young bankers:-

a) Lives 'up to his salary', i.e. he earns a good income, and spends it. He's driving a Porsche by 25, takes 5 exotic holidays a year, and dresses sharply, Hermes ties, hand-made suits, Gucci loafers. He has a flat in a desirable part of town, that fits his routine 10-12hr working days. He gets engaged and his fiancee wants to start a family ASAP. She owns her own place too, but neither would suit a growing family. So they both sell-up, and together buy a large old house out in the suburbs. She's now the wife of a successful banker, and together 'they're going places'. Pretty soon, her shoe and haut couture buying habit rivals Imelda Marcos. They have one child, and another is on the way, and despite his income they soon begin to feel that money is tight. Feeling the financial pressure he takes to working longer and longer hours.

Then one morning, out of the blue, his career is over. And his wife's lifestyle and social-circle with it. She divorces him for someone else who can keep her 'drip' of money and status pumping. Since they have children, she gets default custody, plus she gets the right to live in the marital home, with him forced to leave. So in say 10 short years he's lost his career, wife, children and home.

b) Same kind of job, but must have been brought up with different values. He wears off-the-peg suits and $20 ties. He drives a 10 year old Toyota Coupe. One day during an aside you hear that he earns more than the President of Ford-Europe, but looking at him and chatting with you you'd have never have guessed it. He's also married, with two children, and his wife shares his quite modest approach to spending. He doesn't 'live up to his income', and instead continues living pretty much as he used to, or perhaps how his parents did/do. Realising that career storm-clouds will roll in one day he saves most of his income, so he'll be well able to weather a storm when it arrives. Eventually it does, he loses his job, but together with his family they survive, get through the economic rout, and some time down the road he gets another job, perhaps down a different path, but due to his prudent approach, he has discretion over which direction to take.

Those two were amongst my former colleagues, and perhaps represent opposite ends of the spectrum. It's a cautionary anecdote I suppose. If you do get into banking/finance and do ok for yourself, try to remind yourself that nothing in most careers is forever; but especially so in that career. Have a plan-B worked out before you need it.


I think gone are the days when one would have 1 employer for his whole career. Thus, regardless where you decide to go, you just have to make yourself cope and adjust to what employers need and what kind of employees they are looking for.

In the olden days, they used to have a battalion of accountants closing each month's books. These days, you only need 1 Finance manager to do the closing (with systems in place), other processes done by an outsourced company, etc. Pink slips are common, somehow some way, each one of us or maybe a relative or a friend has gone through this. Therefore, it is really best to live well below your means, no matter if you are a fresh grad, successful in your career or an experienced employee.

I have been out of job for a year now. Not that I am glad that I have not found the one, but I sure did not regret that I made sure I set aside money for rainy days. Being a single parent does not help either. For the meantime, I am pursuing my studies and cherishing every moment of this. Ya sometimes it sucks having to live day by day without a job, but I know once I land on a job, I won't be able to have this luxury of going back to school. Therefore, while waiting, I just enrolled in a related course to complement my experience.

I am not sure if I am doing the right thing, but I think this is the best option I can have on hand. Crossing fingers to land on a job and not losing hope, at least not yet.

User avatar
JR8
Immortal
Immortal
Posts: 16514
Joined: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Location: K. Puki Manis

Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby JR8 » Tue, 31 Mar 2015 6:43 pm

Finfin wrote:I think gone are the days when one would have 1 employer for his whole career. Thus, regardless where you decide to go, you just have to make yourself cope and adjust to what employers need and what kind of employees they are looking for.
In the olden days, they used to have a battalion of accountants closing each month's books.


I agree those days are long gone. It's not only the idea of one employer, it's the idea of a career for life in just one industry that's also gone (from many industries). That's why I believe that once you're well settled into your first career, it's always wise to be thinking about where you might choose to go next ... if the needs comes.

When I started out (80s) I had senior colleagues who'd worked all their lives in that one 'SME' company (headcount c2-300). You know, getting a gold watch from the Chairman when they retired on their 65th birthday; the idea of that happening now, in a commodity broker or similar financial outfit, is unimaginable I'd have thought :) Seems odd, as these guys were the fount of experience, so with one of them as your manager you'd get through anything one way or another. On the flip-side they tended to have taken on-board that '9-5' meant precisely that, and I'm not sure if anything would have changed that. At the time that mattered nought of course, it's how the industry was.

But that was a time things were changing fast. The London stock exchange had been almost like an 'old school tie'/'old boys club'. Bowler hats, pinstripes, gentleman's rules and the promise and practise of of 'My word is my bond'.

Things started changing around mid-80s when the markets deregulated and foreign firms were given licenses. Suddenly you had the likes of Goldman's, Morgan/s, Merrill's etc enter the marketplace. They weren't a party to the old boy's club, and neither did they spend lunchtime in the pub, or much of Friday after lunch getting plastered down at the champagne bar. Being none of those was a good part of their perceived opportunity. The whole culture of the City completely changed, and it happened very quickly. To compete, banking/finance companies quickly morphed into more of a young man's game. The hours grew; the old boys' sloshed lunches and afternoons all but disappeared. Even drinking during the workday became frowned upon (!?). A lot of new faces began to appear in your familiar haunts, and many of them had foreign accents. - I recall resentment back then, just when I'd got keys to 'the Club' - here were all the locks being taken off the doors.

What also changed was that previously if you got hired, the underlying loyalty kept you with that company, unless something really pretty bad happened, or there were nil upward opportunities of any kind. That's when the idea of changing employer started to take hold. You worked for ''''Smith, Montgomerie Fortescue, Smith and Smith''' [or who ever] for 10 years and were on say £30k, then bam in come Merrill's cold-calling you inviting you to interview for a job a rank higher, with scope to move higher still, starting on £65k++. Both job loyalty AND job security went out the window at the same time around that time.

Then soon later you got to what I described previously, by then running with the wolf-pack, and constantly having to fight to maintain your toe-hold in a young man's game.

To some extent, I imagine that entering Banking/Finance here now, is going to require acceptance of the young wolf-pack mentality. The ethos seems to be dictated by the biggest/leanest global operators...no more jobs for life, or 'old boys clubs'...

[I'm not wishing to 'hark back to golden times' as such. But I do believe that if you have an insight into the past, then sometimes it's simpler to interpret the present and how it came about, plus perhaps it's current/future direction... that's my thinking. Being astute and attuned to the direction of the wind, business profitability, any future down-sizing etc, these days is more important than ever].

p.s. re: your last sentence. Yes, for a while I was one of them: Ops/Finance/Middle-Office, Product Control.

--- What course are you taking? I hope it is relevant to your career. A year out is no big deal if it's been spent productively. Good luck!
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

yvrpinoy
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon, 01 Aug 2011

Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby yvrpinoy » Mon, 20 Apr 2015 1:22 am

Hello All,

Note: Edited to put in more details.

Qualified accountant here from Canada (7 years post qualification experience and MBA). After living in Canada for 25 years (rain, snow and all) I would like to move to a much hotter place. I visited Singapore in 2010 and loved it. And so for the past two years I have been toying with this idea of moving to Singapore. Recently, I have been looking at job sites and it seems that job prospects has improved. Do you agree?

In my pre-qualification days, I worked in the private sector ( 8 years) but since getting my letters, my post qualification experience is with the government and non-profit sector. I left the government job and now work as Senior Financial Analyst for a major university. Still not-for-profit but no longer government. This is a step-up from my former job as contract reviewer/finance officer with the provincial government.

I understand that most of government jobs are for locals so I won't be targeting this sector. However, while I believe my skills are transferable to any industry, the private sector employers might look only at my post qualification experience (with government) and dismiss my pre-qualification experience (with private sector) so this is what is holding me back. Also, I am concerned about age discrimination as I am already in my early 50s (though look younger being Asian, not sure if this matters). I plan on moving to Singapore after gaining 1 year experience in the for profit sector to increase my chances.

If offered, I am willing to accept mid-level position but with my qualifications I am concerned that this would pose a problem getting employment pass.

Any thoughts from the members will be greatly appreciated.
Last edited by yvrpinoy on Mon, 20 Apr 2015 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
JR8
Immortal
Immortal
Posts: 16514
Joined: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Location: K. Puki Manis

Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby JR8 » Mon, 20 Apr 2015 2:07 am

yvrpinoy wrote:Hello All,
Qualified accountant here from Canada (7 years post qualification experience and MBA). After living in Canada for 25 years (rain, snow and all) I would like to move to a much hotter place. I visited Singapore in 2010 and loved it. And so for the past two years I have been toying with this idea of moving to Singapore. Recently, I have been looking at job sites and it seems that job prospects has improved. Do you agree?
Most of my post qualification experience is with the government and non-profit sector. I understand that most of government jobs are for locals so I won't be targeting this sector. However, while I believe my skills are transferable to any industry, the private sector employers might think otherwise so this is what is holding me back. Also, I am concerned about age discrimination as I am already in my 50s.
If offered, I am willing to accept mid-level position but with my qualifications I am concerned that this would pose a problem getting employment pass.
Any thoughts from the members will be greatly appreciated.



Could you get a job as is now on Wall street, or in the City of London? I reckon it's yet harder here right now. What would you do, what skills would you bring, how would your 'hunger' compete vs the 20 year olds starting out their careers?

Expats in the banking/fin industry here tend to be subject matter experts, allowed here for a short period, primarily to help set up local operations, and also transfer their skills to the locals. Other than such types, together with IT, (and the indentured labour) the government would be happier with no foreigners at all. You could say that that it 'puts up with the rest', the dependent baggage (spouses and parents etc) that comes along with the 'talent' it briefly welcomes both in and then out again.

Job prospects for foreigners are markedly worse this past year or two, and certainly not better. There's something of a nationalistic pogrom of foreigners going on. One might conclude that it's for political purposes. Either way, whereas you used to be able to come here, having established your credentials, work your arse off and keep your head down for a few years, make money, and then leave, but the mood has changed. One might be tolerated rather than welcomed these days.

Back home in the west, if you've only done gov/non-profit work, then you'll have a challenge moving to the 'productive sector'. The cultural shift is big, from a mindset of simply spending other peoples money, to going out and making it. The leap through that into doing it as an expat is huge.

I don't see the plan as is working. It's more than a challenging one, it's a non-starter, to be brutally honest. I'd take your evident talents and initiative and try and find a different path. This one here has pretty much had it's day and is waning fast towards extinction.

[Please don't think I'm being negative; I'm not, rather frank and pragmatic. I wish you the very best of luck].
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

User avatar
sundaymorningstaple
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 34782
Joined: Thu, 11 Nov 2004
Location: Still Fishing!
Contact:

Re: Career advice in Finance & Accounting

Postby sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 20 Apr 2015 6:58 am

From another old timer, I have to concur with JR8's post.


  • Similar Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Return to “Careers & Jobs in Singapore”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests

cron