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Industry Insights | 19 minute read

Asia accounting & finance 2023: A year of promise, caution and change

September 27, 2023

While the demand for accounting and finance roles in the Asia Pacific region remains strong, the job market experienced a slowdown during Q2. In Singapore, the economic outlook for hiring is cautious due to several factors, including supply chain disruptions, unexpected long-term inflation and rising business costs. These challenges have had a dampening effect on consumer confidence and global trade, causing Singapore's GDP growth forecast to narrow from .5% to 2.5% to .5% to 1.5% as reported by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. In contrast, China's economic recovery has been steady, with a 5.5% expansion in its GDP. China has made significant progress in its services and consumption sectors, as well as in industrial and manufacturing output. However, overall momentum has slowed since April, and youth unemployment in China has risen to over 20%, surpassing last year's record. 

Similarly, in Hong Kong, the job market has shown slower growth in Q2 compared to Q1, with real GDP growth revised to 4-5%. Despite this, optimism remains for continued recovery driven by visitor arrivals and private consumption. Although tourism in Hong Kong has not yet reached pre-pandemic levels, positive signs are evident in transportation and handling capacity, indicating a potential for further growth.

Japan’s economy remains robust in Q2 due to a weakened yen, and government data suggests the country is gradually recovering from setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The local economy has benefited from its reliance on tourism; however, a decrease in domestic manufacturing output underscores the fragile nature of this recovery, which still relies on external factors for sustained success.

Hiring trends and hot skills


  • To assist businesses in navigating a more dynamic and intricate economic environment, clients are actively seeking candidates who possess robust analytical skills, adeptness in business partnering and a solid advisory background, as opposed to solely relying on reporting experience. With more organizations establishing regional operations in Singapore and striving to enhance their organization-wide processes, there has been a surge in demand for roles relating to finance transformation, systems improvements and project management skills.
  • The importance of financial modeling skills remains elevated, particularly in the context of business partnering, as decision-making processes become increasingly intricate.
  • Clients are showing keen interest in hiring finance professionals with expertise in process enhancements and automation.
  • There is a noticeable increase in demand for risk-related positions, encompassing roles such as enterprise risk, technology risk and PDPA compliance. This heightened interest is driven by companies across various sectors recognizing the significance of fortifying their risk management strategies in an ever-changing business landscape.
  • Positions that center on sustainability risk assessment and reporting continue to be highly sought after.


  • There is a significant demand among local companies actively seeking finance business partner professionals with experience in multinational companies. These professionals are instrumental in driving transformation initiatives and expanding into overseas markets.
  • Similarly, there’s a growing demand for finance system-related roles. Given China’s advanced status in digital transformation, companies are on the lookout for talent capable of upgrading from PA 1.0 to 2.0, developing machine learning and enhancing their capacity with big data analytics systems.
  • Experienced candidates who have been well trained in large multinational companies and have a successful track record in redesigning finance teams and implementing advanced systems are in high demand.
  • Considering the undeniable impact of COVID-19 coupled with geopolitical issues, it is evident many companies are currently navigating a challenging period, with projections indicating uncertainties for the next 2 years. Notably, startups and private equity (PE) portfolio companies are experiencing heightened fund-raising pressure. Furthermore, it’s a factual observation that CFOs have assumed a more central role, acting as the second-in-command after the CEO and leading the organization’s transformation. Companies are looking for CFOs to not only have a strong capital market background, but also possess a deep understanding of business operations, from top-line growth to operational excellence.
  • Candidates with A-share listed experience are highly sought after following full implementations of the registration-based regime.

Hong Kong

  • As Hong Kong accepts more visitors for both leisure and business travel, there has been a bounce back in retail, hospitality and travel industries. Hotel occupancy rates peaked at 86% in April this year. Consumer-focused clients are leading the way in hiring this year.
  • Clients are increasingly looking for business partnering skills. Evolving the relationship between finance and the business has become more important over the last few years. Candidates with strong soft skills, the ability to influence and create buy-in and interact with senior stakeholders are highly coveted. We see increasing levels of communication with not just APAC offices, but global co-workers too; this international mindset is highly desirable.
  • We have seen several acquisitions throughout the last few years, and with this, an increase in financial implementations and transformations, as well as automation and process improvement.
  • Leadership teams are relying heavily on finance when making decisions, as finance modelling skills are needed to make informed offerings.
  • Finance candidates who can work on the business — and less so in it — are desirable. In other words, less reporting and more actionable insights and recommendations are ideal for clients.


  • Japan’s market demand for bilingual finance and accounting professionals remains at an all-time high, with candidates having even more options than before.
  • As markets continue to fluctuate, overseas businesses need strong, financially, and linguistically fluent counterparts in their Japanese businesses to help them navigate and understand the relatively impregnable local market.

  • A weak yen, high inflation, and rising unemployment all mean Japan's recovery is by no means guaranteed, but an uptick in visitors has been a boon for the travel, hospitality and retail industries, with corresponding growth in need for talent. Additionally, the weak yen means Japan's manufacturing sector, mainly in automotive and semiconductor, is seeing a return, which is driving talent to those industries.

What do candidates look for?


Amid persisting market uncertainty, candidates are adopting a cautious approach when contemplating career transitions. Many are prioritizing job security and stability within their current roles.

During the interview process, candidates are advocating for higher salary increments, largely in response to the escalating cost of living. However, it’s important to note that monetary compensation is not the sole focus. Candidates are placing significant weight on various other factors, such as career advancement opportunities, work-life balance, flexible work arrangements, a positive and inclusive culture and their alignment with a company’s core values and leadership style.

We are also seeing candidates gravitating towards brick-and-mortar businesses due to their perceived stability. This preference stems from the turbulence experienced by some sectors which underwent restructuring in previous quarters of this year, contributing to an increased perception of risk.


Candidates we have engaged with hold the perspective that the market is currently undergoing a significant transformation. This perception in China is akin to what is observed in Singapore, where an atmosphere of uncertainty remains due to various factors, including geo-political tensions, the intricate dynamics of the US-China relationship and the looming possibility of a global economic downturn. Consequently, candidates are displaying a heightened sense of caution when contemplating external career opportunities.

Consequently, candidates in China are taking a deliberate approach and evaluating multiple facets when considering career moves. These factors include global headquarters’ locations, the outlook of HQ for the Chinese market, the government’s stance towards certain industries, chemistry with line managers, and the prevailing company culture and comprehensive benefits packages.

It is noteworthy that despite considering these critical factors, a good portion of candidates in China remains risk averse. In addition, candidates are placing more emphasis on the cash component of the package over aspects like stock options, for example.

Hong Kong

Candidates are open but cautious about career opportunities. Increased introductory conversations are happening upfront to understand company cultures and working styles. Despite more candidates being open to conversations, a cautious sentiment remains when considering career moves.

There’s been a noticeable dip in interest to move to tech companies since candidates prefer the perceived safety of traditional, well-established sectors. This also means less demand to join crypto-focused companies — as candidates are intent on the financial health of a company, whether it’s PE-backed or has current or future acquisition plans.

The most important factor when moving jobs used to be compensation packages, but this has changed in the last 24 months. Now, the top candidate priority is work-life balance. This has resulted in changes to employee wellness programs and work from home (WFH) policies. It has also led to a major overhaul of client employee value propositions (EVPs). EVP changes have been well received by potential candidates and proven to be compelling competitive differentiators for employers.

While salary remains a major point of interest, the desired percentage increases from 2022 aren’t as high as the last few years.


Candidates in Japan are willing to consider new opportunities, but because of the high volume of roles, there is less willingness to speak directly to recruiters without first seeing the job description and more information. This has led to candidates declining to explore opportunities if the roles are not attractive enough.

Despite concerns about rising prices and a weak yen, this isn’t impacting candidates’ decisions to change jobs.

Following the challenges observed in the cryptocurrency sector as well as tech layoffs, candidates are more cautious about industries perceived as risky, but the general appetite to switch jobs remains.

Top motivations for candidates to change jobs in the region include career advancement, higher titles, better pay and people management opportunities. However, they also now include flexibility to work remotely, or at the very least, in a hybrid environment.

Looking ahead

Various regions carry growth potential in sectors such as tourism, renewable energy and luxury goods. We see continued momentum in the years following the pandemic. As we approach the fourth quarter, we expect employers to be more cautious in hiring activities.

In the coming quarters, industries relating to sustainability are projected to see strong hiring and growth, largely due to heightened interest from investors. This includes new energy industries and autonomous driving, which has strong support from several governments.

Additionally, pharmaceutical and medtech companies have seen strong hiring this year across the region. Many of these companies are seeking finance business partner-related roles to navigate the rapid changes and innovations.

While a few select industries are directing their efforts towards reaching inflation targets and satisfying increased demand, most sectors are aligning their strategic plans for 2024 with a focus on deliberate and strategic hiring practices. 

What this means for HR leaders

Despite a busy 2022, many HR leaders have weathered economic uncertainty, restructuring and layoffs throughout 2023 across sectors. Now, to attract the best talent, EVPs have become critical for value alignment with jobseekers, as many are reluctant to make moves. There is a pressing need to prioritize employee well-being and flexibility so jobseekers feel their next career move has more balance, stability and learning opportunities.

In the talent acquisition space, this means retention is also important as other firms are on the hunt for jobseekers with highly desired skills to propel the business forward. In the coming quarters, priorities for HR leaders in APAC include being proactive with benefits, perks and promotion opportunities for top talent. This is pivotal for organizations to maintain morale and remain competitive in the market.

Navigating this unpredictable global economy by investing in employees and instilling confidence and visibility into the business outlook and vision upfront will strengthen employee engagement for the months ahead as hiring slowly picks up pace.


Recent placements over the last 12 months

Location Position title Company description
Singapore Head of Finance
Singapore HQ start up in sustainable foods sector
Singapore Finance Director
SGX listed company in technology solutions
Singapore Group Financial Controller
Leading renewable energy multinational
Singapore Regional Head of Finance
Global MNC in industrial solutions
Singapore Senior Pricing Manager
Consumer goods multinational
Singapore Senior FP&A Manager
Leading technology multinational
Senior Group Governance and Sustainability
Leading real estate group
Singapore Group Tax Senior Manager Local-listed conglomerate
Singapore Business Controller
Global MNC in FMCG sector
VP of Venture and Strategy
Venture investment firm
Regional Accounting and Controls Manager
US-listed company in FMCG sector
Manager, Investment Governance
SGX-listed renewable energy firm
Japan CFO Family office
Japan FP&A Specialist Medical device company
China Asia Pacific Finance VP
European-leading luxury company
China CFO
PE-backed portfolio company, retail sector
China Pre-IPO CFO
PE-backed portfolio company, healthcare sector
VP of Strategy & Investment
Global leading F&B company
Investment Director, CVC & FOF
Leading consumer goods multinational
Head of Strategy & Capital Market
Pre-IPO bio-pharmacy company
Tax Director
Global leading entertainment company
China Plant Finance Controller
Listed healthcare conglomerate
China FP&A Director
Global leading FMCG company
China Finance System Director
Global leading FMCG company
Senior Accounting Manager
Global leading manufacturing company
China Plant Finance Controller
Listed healthcare conglomerate
Senior Treasury Manager, Outbound
Local leading technology platform
China Ethics & Compliance Lead
Global leading luxury group
Hong Kong VP, FP&A Global luxury retailer
Hong Kong Head of Finance, APAC
UK-listed footwear company
Hong Kong
Director, Finance Transformation
PE-backed Global Manufacturer
Hong Kong Finance Director, APAC Travel tech MNC
Hong Kong Director, FP&A, APAC US FinTech company
Hong Kong Finance Controller
US-listed sports apparel company
Hong Kong Senior Finance Manager
European luxury footwear brand

Meet the team

Wan Qi Ang | Associate Director | Singapore
Wan Qi is an Associate Director in our Accounting & Finance practice in Singapore, specializing in mid to senior-level mandates in commerce accounting & finance for multinationals, conglomerates and publicly listed companies across Southeast Asia.

Joanne Hoo | Associate Director | Singapore

Joanne is an Associate Director in our Accounting & Finance practice in Singapore, specializing in mid to senior-level appointments in the commerce space throughout Southeast Asia. ​She has more than 10 years of executive search experience, and has placed more than many finance professionals in MNCs, start-ups and local conglomerates. 

Nikita Jain | Research Associate |  Singapore
Nikita is a Research Associate in Singapore, providing research, market intelligence and execution support to our Accounting & Finance practice.


Paul Shelton | Director | Hong Kong

Paul has 20 years experience within executive search, and currently leads WilsonHCG's commerce team in Hong Kong focusing on senior level appointments across sales & marketing, finance & accounting and general management/operations.

Sophia Sun | Director | China

Sophia is a Director in our Consumer and Finance Sectors in Shanghai, specializing in in senior-level finance mandates across all sectors in China as well as CEO/GM roles across General Consumer industry.

Enzo Xi | Consultant | China

Enzo is a Consultant in our Accounting & Finance Practice in Shanghai, specializing in mid to senior-level mandates across the tax and treasury sector.

Liam Hegarty | Associate Director | Japan

Liam is an Associate Director in our Sales & Marketing practice in Tokyo, specializing in mid to senior-level mandates across the commercial sector.


About Yvonne Goh

Yvonne is a Managing Director overseeing our executive search practice for the industry and commerce sector, located in Singapore. She specialises in senior mandates with a focus on finance and accounting, sales and marketing and general management across Southeast Asia. Yvonne has more than 20 years of executive search experience, with a background in senior finance recruitment at an international firm in Singapore.