Recruitment firms anticipate the continued shift towards Asia from multi-national companies will see increased opportunities, as companies need accounting talent to help them compete in the challenging environments in which they do business. Additionally, the early signs of pick up in the banking sector are expected to lead to improved career opportunities. At a regional level, continued growth in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand will also create demand for experienced talent to support the growth of MNCs business activities. Accountants are also essential to support the small business sectors and regional enterprises widening their footprint across the Asia region. Going North Martin Cerullo, managing director at Alexander Mann Solutions, points out that there is increasing demand from firms in Greater China to attract talent from overseas. This includes current nationals working abroad, second and third generation Chinese individuals and other nationalities with specific skillsets. “This is very evident in campus recruitment, but also increasingly so in a more structured and systematic approach for experienced candidates,” remarks Cerullo. While job opportunities still exist locally, Louisa Yeung, managing director with Michael Page believes the mainland is where new opportunities exist for qualified accountants with a few years of experience under their belts. She says like Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai have become relatively mature environments for accountants. Therefore, it is the second tier cities where many international and regional as well as domestic companies are setting up shop where career inspired accountants might find their rewards. “Quality companies still require quality accounting and finance professionals,” says Yeung. “Second tier cities might not have all the comfort levels that Beijing and Shanghai can offer, but for those that raise their hand and go there they can quickly improve their knowledge and experience levels, and most likely gain promotion.” Simon Lance, regional director of Hays in China is another recruitment specialist who keeps a close watch of emerging trends. “There are certainly career opportunities in accountancy and finance that didn’t exist five years [in China],” he says. ”For example, we seldom saw finance operation managers and commercial finance managers five year ago, but these skills are now in demand especially in mainland China.” At the same time, Lance has seen demand for internal auditors, candidates in financial planning and analysis and mergers and acquisition positions. However, he has observed that the career development track within the Big Four firms on the mainland China is somewhat rigid. Typically for those with professional qualifications it takes two years to become an associate, three years until manager or senior manager, but thereafter promotion depends on available openings in the hierarchy and fast tracking is very rare. An alternative career track is for candidates to move into banking, in-house corporate finance and consulting firms. Big Four still the best Career opportunities are always available with second tier accounting firms according to Eunice Ng, director at Avanza Consulting Pacific. “Second tier accounting firms always want to elevate and upgrade themselves by acquiring more international or world class clients,“she says. “They welcome talent with solid experience coming from big four firms.” Pointing out some of the advantages of working for a second tier firm, Ng says accounting practitioners are usually exposed to a wide range of clients and different aspects of the accounting profession. It can also be easier for candidates to get to partner level. Still, working for a big four firm does have wide spread appeal. Benefits can include the ability to gain finance knowledge across different industries, learning to work under pressure and being able to polish communication skills because they need to regularly face clients. The Big Four also provide competitive salaries. If candidates, however, become a manager in a Big Four firm, Lance says it can be difficult to transfer into in-house finance roles, which can be a disadvantage for candidates. The reason for this is most employers are not willing to recruit senior candidates with pure Big Four experience as they normally prefer candidates who have spent two to four years in the Big Four firms to take their junior positions. Marc Baloch, associate director, Financial Services Practice, Harvey Nash Asia Pacific is another seasoned financial professional who is optimistic about the accounting sector. He says he outlook remains extremely strong for the big four firms where most careers within these firms require a common set of key skills including accounting, audit, transaction advisory and risk & compliance. “These skills are always in high demand, “he says. According to Baloah, those fluent in Mandarin will also be in demand, enabling them to pick and choose the best career options for them. Given these broader options they will be able to choose either to stay within their respective field and become partner, or move to other areas with the banking and financial sector such as asset management, a move towards the product side or focus on the risk & compliance profession.