China's growth drives needs for 1,200 trainee accountants

by Ella Lee

Margaret So, senior manager, human resources, KPMG
Photo: CY Leung

Strong demand for graduates and experienced accounting professionals

Companies are constantly looking for business opportunities. At the same time, tightening regulatory controls and intense competition are often a fact of life for many companies in China. In this environment, strong audit, tax, general accounting and financial advice is paramount, which explains why the leading professional services firms are currently experiencing a period of almost unprecedented expansion on the mainland.

As one of the Big Four accounting firms with around 104,000 employees across148 countries, KPMG focuses on delivering professional services and specialised industry knowledge. Therefore, staff are required to have a good understanding of specific industry practices, as well as the technical knowledge to advise on audit, tax and other related issues.

Senior human resources manager Margaret So says KPMG welcomes professionals across all levels with relevant experience, as well as those who may have experience outside professional services.

Rapid recent expansion in China and Hong Kong means that there is a steady demand for more experienced professionals. This year, KPMG has opened two new offices in mainland China and have plans for more over the next two years, while simultaneously doubling the regional workforce from the current number of around 5,200 within the next four years. This growth will result mainly from hiring over 1,200 new graduates and as many experienced accountants as possible in China every year.

The greatest demand is for auditors and qualified professionals with three to six years' experience and the ability to lead or manage a team. Work experience in the mainland is always seen as an advantage, but is by no means a prerequisite. At present, there is strong competition for such people from the commercial sector and, of course, other accounting firms.

We have identified certain benchmarks for our partners and will strengthen our potential leaders by training them

Global search

To find the right kind of candidates, KPMG recruit from across the globe for skills and industry experience that cannot be sourced locally. Some of these candidates are Chinese speakers from Singaporeans or Malaysians who can also speak Mandarin and have both experience and well-grounded management skills.

"Some staff may have been with us ever since they graduated and decide at a certain point that they want to further their education and extend their horizon in a different environment," notes Ms So. "This is one of the factors affecting staff turnover, but we also see quite a number of former employees returning to our 'family' after seeing that this is where they get the greatest variety of work and the best opportunities."

Ms So also points out that accountants qualified in Europe or the US are generally technically sound with a professional approach. In most cases, a candidate's soft skills are the most important, and KPMG are looking for team players with strong communication and negotiation skills.

Personal plans

To attract and retain the best talent, the firm puts special emphasis on providing opportunities for both personal and professional growth. Recently, a career development centre has been set up for senior management, to identify individual strengths and development needs. Each individual is provided with a customised training plan.

"We have identified certain benchmarks for our partners and will strengthen our potential leaders by training them to have the attributes necessary to be a partner," says Ms So. She adds that a tailor-made training programme might include classroom teaching, personal coaching, client meetings, and private study.

"We have an extensive client base in the region and working with them will also provide wide exposure and valuable experience for our employees," she adds.

Corporate values of KPMG

  • Lead by example
  • Work together
  • Respect the individual
  • Seek the facts and provide insight
  • Open and honest in communication
  • Committed to communities
  • Act with integrity

Taken from Career Times 27 October 2006
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