Features
15 Apr 2015 01:07pm

Top destinations for accountancy careers

Working abroad has for a long while been regarded as a good thing for an accountant’s CV. Yet the motivations for relocating, such as financial gains and lifestyle now seem to be have been superseded by many looking develop their career and move into a more interesting role or different industry.

In a recent CareersinAudit.com research study, as many as eight in 10 accountants would consider getting on the plane to do just that, having failed to get the promotion or role they have been searching for on their home turf

Finding the right path and place is a crucial step in your career development. And while the lure of a tropical beach or a chance to immerse oneself in a very different culture may seem appealing, it is worth remembering that moving to a different location will often mean very different business practices and adapting to a culture very different from what you are used to. While there may be tax advantages, the cost of living could be considerably higher too.

Make sure you don’t make a kneejerk reaction; give the decision to move abroad a lot of consideration before buying the ticket. That said, across the globe there are many accountants working outside of their home country who have not regretted the move and have seen their career go from strength to strength.

Qatar /UAE

There has been huge economic growth in these regions over the past few years, even with the recent question mark of oil prices and the negative effect on Dubai’s construction industry from the global financial crisis. But with plans underway for the Fifa World Cup in Qatar in 2022 and Dubai hosting the World Expo in 2020, these destinations are expected to get busier.

As the economy gains momentum and an increasing number of companies move to Qatar, there are even more finance and accountancy positions becoming available in this area. In Dubai, while not quite experiencing the heady pace of 2007, there are now a large number of jobs for all industries and a strong demand for auditors this year. Chris L’Amie, regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at international recruiter Barclay Simpson believes that “attractive tax free-salaries and potential expediency in one’s career path can offset the challenges of an emerging market. Banking, construction and real estate, tourism, healthcare and government organisations are performing. Across the sectors the demand for high calibre expatriates is high”.

However Andy Bell, a director at another international recruiter Hanami International warns that although there are some terrific career opportunities and a great work/life balance to be had, there is greater competition for these roles from locals and other expats who have been on the ground for at least four or five years.

For those that have made the move to Quatar or the UAE, there is generally only positive feedback. If you are an early bird then you’ll like the (generally) short working hours and working week - typical hours are 7am-3pm. In addition there are large expat communities, a low crime rate, very cheap fuel, good weather all year round and great school.

New York

The Big Apple has been one of the perennial hotspots for accountants. With the US economy moving forward again at a fantastic rate, New York has arguably stolen the crown from London as the financial capital centre of the world. There is definitely a high demand for auditors and accountants in the city – currently there are more than 150,000 working there.

As Daniel Close from Barclay Simpson’s New York office explains, “With the likes of CitiGroup, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and AIG located in New York, the financial services sector dominates the audit market. Public accounting firms are also in the market to recruit due to strong expertise from their clients. Career minded auditors will also have the opportunities to look at roles in corporate governance such as compliance or risk management."

If money is your driving factor, then you’re be pleased to hear that salaries in New York are paid at the highest rate of any city in the US. Despite this, remember to factor in the high cost of living in Manhattan when negotiating your salary and/or relocation package.

While competition for getting a plum role here is understandably higher, perhaps the biggest obstacle for those who are not US citizens will be getting an employment visa. The best route is often getting a transfer from your existing employer. So if your dream is to work in this city, you may need to do some forward planning and make sure you are in the right firm with offices based in New York.

Bell advises candidates to be realistic. “While a move to New York will definitely look great on your CV – there’s real potential to learn – getting a Hi-B visa is not easy. Even if your employer really wants you, you will have a one in three chance of actually getting your visa accepted. You will also need to make sure you get your application in by the April 1 that year.”

It’s worth knowing that if you do get to New York, the working hours will be long and with such intense competition, the pressure to perform will be high. It may not be all diners, ice-skating in Central Park and shopping in Bloomingdales.

Singapore

Currently, the demand for talent in the financial hub of Asia is still high. Over the past 10 years, there has been year on year economic growth. Many companies moved their banking, accounting and finance teams to Singapore from the US, Europe and the Middle East during the financial crisis and they have expanded their staff numbers at impressive rates.

In the banking and other industries there is still a large requirement for roles in internal audit, regulatory compliance, financial crime and risk management. Singapore was rated number one in the World Bank 2013 list of Easiest Countries to do Business out of 183 and with English as the main language, making the move to Singapore is often as seamless as it can be for an international relocation.

Whilst expats will enjoy the lower tax rate and high salaries - the downside can be that it can be hard to leave this behind and have to adjust if you return back home.
However, getting the job to move out to this popular career destination with isn’t as easy as it used to be. “There’s definitely been an improvement in the calibre of local talent and there is of course a higher concentration of expat talent on the ground,” says Bell.

Russell Bunker at Barclay Simpson explains, “The Singaporean government is developing its domestic labour force. In addition, employment pass quotas are applied to all companies with more than 12 staff dictating the number of passes any one company can apply for.

"Executive base salaries in excess of SG$144,000 (£70,000) coupled with a degree from a top university are required to ensure an employment pass application is as smooth as possible. Without these criteria, it is still possible to hire foreign talent, however strong justification needs to be made to recruit a non-Singaporean”.

Shanghai and Hong Kong

Regarded as China’s most westernised city, Shanghai has grown considerably over the past 10-15 years and for those looking for a great stepping-stone into China, this is definitely the place to head to. While having a good grasp of Mandarin is not essential to work here, you’d be in a stronger position by learning to speak a Chinese language. Manufacturing and technology are huge industry sectors in China and the financial services sector is also grwoing at a phenomenal rate. Key roles in high demand are currently those in the forensic accounting, corporate advisory and cyber security areas.

Salaries in Shanghai have grown in recent years, and while they may not be on a par with those in Singapore, the cost of living is lower. Depending on which company you work for, you should be aware and respectful of differences in the workplace – adds Bell, “Asian Culture often dictates you cannot leave the office at the end of the day until your boss has”.

In neighbouring Hong Kong, the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect is driving closer integration between these two financial cities and creating jobs. In the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, there is still a great demand for those working in internal audit, regulatory compliance and risk management which is fuelled by financial services companies having to adhere to increased regulation and working to avoid fines.

Salaries in Hong Kong are probably comparable to those working in the UK – although the cost of living is less than in Singapore and higher than in Shanghai. There is also an increased need for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong.
Germany

With a stable economy, great work life balance, good salaries and a chance to work for some of the leading manufacturing and automotive industries, Germany continues to be a popular hot-spot for accountants seeking a change in Western Europe. However, be aware that competition for roles is high and you need a very good grasp of the language. Types of roles currently in high demand here are internal auditors and corporate auditors, specifically across the financial sectors, as well as IT auditors.

Channel Islands

Last but definitely not least are the Channel Islands. A leading offshore centre with great exposure to some of the leading financial services and insurance names, those relocating to either Jersey or Guernsey will also benefit from a much better net salary because of the favourable tax system. Although the cost of living can be expensive, those who have relocated here report that there is a very good work-life balance and for families, there are very good schools. Some accountants also mention that you are more likely to get noticed and rewarded for your work. Moving to the islands may not be ideal though; if you are a big city person you could start to feel claustrophobic and want to run for the mainland.

And finally:

If you decide that working overseas is your next move, then ideally make sure the role is going to challenge you and enhance your CV. But getting to your dream destination may not be a shoe-in. Many international recruiters for the profession have noted the increased focus on CIA, CISA and professional qualifications by employers. The need to stand out from the crowd of other auditors and accountants vying for the available roles is also important. So, while still on home ground, make sure you are doing everything possible to build up your skills and ensure your employer testimonials will be glowing.


Simon Wright is operations director of global job board CareersinAudit.com


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