Small and medium-sized Hong Kong firms place more emphasis on technical skills while soft skills appeal more to large firms

02 December 2012

International experience crucial to accounting and finance professionals now and in the future

Hong Kong, 3 December 2012 – Despite the increased emphasis businesses place on soft skills when evaluating job candidates, a survey by finance, accounting and technology specialist recruitment firm Robert Half reveals that skill set requirements tend to vary according to the size of a company.  While the importance of soft skills is growing among large companies, there is still a tendency for small- to mid-sized firms to focus on technical skills.

In the survey of 150 Hong Kong-based Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and Finance Directors across different industries, 3 out of 4 (75%) respondents from small businesses and more than half (56%) of those from medium-sized businesses identified strong technical and analytical skills to be among the top three most valuable skills for finance & accounting professionals. On the contrary, respondents from large-sized businesses are placing more emphasis on soft skills including leadership (65%) and effective communications skills (37%), with strong analytical and technical skills trailing at 35%.

Hong Kong is on par with the trend in Singapore and the number of respondents who identified strong technical and analytical skills as one of the most valuable skills is nearly identical. However, Hong Kong CFOs pay more attention to candidates who possess an understanding and ability to deal with risk (32%) when compared to their Singapore counterparts (17%). In contrast, strong interpersonal skills ranks as a more important attribute in Singapore (35%) than Hong Kong (21%).

Pallavi Anand, Director of Robert Half Hong Kong, said, “The survey results suggest that while technical skills are important, large companies are increasingly looking beyond these hard skills as points of differentiation.  Due to the size of their business and number of employees, soft skills such as leadership, people management, effective communication, and problem solving are equally, if not more, important in larger organisations especially when it comes to managing cross-border projects, leading high-performing teams and succession planning.”

The survey also revealed that the majority of the respondents, regardless of the size of their business, consider international experience to be either very necessary (39%) or somewhat necessary (49%) for accounting and finance professionals five years from now.

“Professionals with international exposure are valuable to their companies due to their experience with and understanding of other markets, as well as access to an overseas network. More importantly, it is the general perception that employees who have worked abroad possess a higher degree of flexibility and capability in embracing challenges outside their comfort zone.  The ability to adapt is important in today’s fast-evolving business environment.”

“Whether it be hard skills or soft skills, it is crucial that employees make a constant effort to update and enhance their skills to stay relevant.  At the same time, employers should continue to take proactive steps to retain top talent and help hone their skills as they grow their business in 2013,” Ms. Anand concluded.  


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