Contract work - A viable solution during recessionary times for both companies and employees

16 February 2009

HONG KONG, 17 February 09.  During these troubled economic times, Hong Kong’s finance and accounting professionals who are currently looking for a new job, may find employment success in contract work for special projects.  Robert Half, the premiere global specialist recruitment agency, reports that companies who are presently unable to add permanent employees during periods of economic uncertainty often seek to lure in professionals contractually.  These seemingly temporary situations can often lead to opportunities for finance and accounting professionals who are looking to network in their industry, sustain an income, and maintain their marketability.

In response to the current market uncertainty, Robert Half Hong Kong has launched a new division called Robert Half Temporary, specifically focused on placing finance, banking and accounting professionals in temporary roles.  The division will focus on junior and middle management positions in areas such as Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable, and for roles including Assistant Accountants, Financial Accountants and Management Accountants.

Director of Robert Half Hong Kong, Andrew Morris, speculates that it can be challenging for businesses to predict their long-term staffing needs.  “Companies are finding that hiring contract professionals for special projects with high-priority initiatives allows the company to maintain productivity without committing to permanent hires until they can be sure those particular positions are sustainable,” he explains.

Robert Half has noticed that because companies are under high pressure from the economic climate, they are constantly looking to reduce their fixed labour costs.  “That’s why,” Mr. Morris notes, “temporary recruitment is a solution for both the business and for their temporary employees.  While many people associate contract work with administrative roles, opportunities are actually available in a wide variety of specialised finance and accounting fields, where professionals with certain skill-sets and experience are in high demand.”

Robert Half Temporary is working towards this solution, focusing closely on special project positions in Finance and Accounting, Financial Services, and Management Resources, which specifically specialises in assisting senior level professionals on interim contracts.

The following are ten of the most prevalent finance and accounting contract and special project roles that remain in high demand as a result of the current economic conditions in Hong Kong, according to Robert Half:

  1. Credit and collections specialists – Companies are working with these professionals to help manage credit risk and collect bad debts from outstanding accounts.  In particular, firms seek individuals who can identify ways to reduce inefficiencies, enhance profitability and maximise cash flow.
  2. Staff and senior accountants – In any economy, businesses need staff members who can perform core accounting tasks, such as maintaining the general ledger system and analysing and preparing financial statements.
  3. Tax accountants – New tax regulations and the increased attention devoted to potential tax-derived cost savings have led to greater demand and rising salaries for tax accountants in both the private industry and public accounting.
  4. Senior auditors – Public accounting firms seek auditors who have at least three years of experience and can manage the audit process and troubleshoot problems.
  5. Financial analysts – Especially during uncertain times, companies need financial analysts to help them maximise profitability and identify cost-savings opportunities through better budgeting, forecasting and improved finance management.
  6. Finance managers/controllers – Businesses continue to need controllers and assistant controllers to plan, direct and coordinate critical functions, including compiling financial statements, managing relationships with outside auditors and overseeing regulatory reporting.
  7. Cost accountants – There is a growing demand for cost accountants as businesses seek to better understand operational costs, monitor cost variances and perform cost-benefit analysis.
  8. Internal audit / risk professionals – With companies now viewing their risks very differently in lieu of the current economic climate, combined with today’s regulatory environment and closely monitored markets, a surge in the need for strong corporate governance has emerged.  Boards of directors are seeking professionals to help solve problems in finance, operations, technology, litigation, governance, risk, and compliance who can assist to identify, assess and manage their risks through effective risk management.
  9. Business process re-engineering/business process improvement professionals – Corporations also require professionals with experience in the area of business transformation and business process solutions development with the goal of helping companies improve their business performance, identify cost control risk elements, deliver operational efficiency and realise tangible, measurable ROI.
  10. System conversion specialists – As companies strive for greater back-office efficiencies and support, professionals who can help companies transition from an existing system infrastructure to a new accounting system infrastructure are in demand.  These professionals are able to use their knowledge of the entire conversion process including software design and capabilities, to implementation strategy and post-conversion quality control.

According to Mr. Morris, candidates can greatly improve their chances of finding work by first taking up a temporary position with a company.  “Contract employment is a great opportunity for both the employer and the temporary employee to evaluate whether there is a good fit in the company.  In these situations, when businesses do decide it’s time to fill a position, these temporary hires are often an obvious choice, as they have already been integrated into the company’s system and demonstrated their value and capabilities.”

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