ACCOUNTANCY is not a profession known for getting the heart racing, even among number-crunchers themselves, but the Senior Minister of State for Finance wants the profession to ramp up the "passion and energy" .
Mrs Josephine Teo said at a conference yesterday that she wants bosses to try to make their number crunchers' work more engaging.
She noted that relatively few people become accountants out of a sense of intrinsic motivation and quoted a passage from American author Daniel Pink.
"This weekend," wrote Pink, "there will be accountants doing watercolours in the garages. But I guarantee you that you won't find any sculptors who on weekends will be doing other people's taxes for fun."
But in the rapidly changing accountancy profession, "passion and energy are precisely the qualities needed for firms to be able to rise to the challenges and opportunities brought about by change", Mrs Teo added.
"So I hope that in Singapore, work given to accountants at every level is going beyond the routine and mundane, so that it is also a profession in which their creative, innovative, energetic and passionate selves can also find expression."
She said the sector can uplift people "not just in financial terms, but in terms of meaning and fulfilment, which is ultimately what many of us seek in life".
Mrs Teo was addressing 400 accounting-sector professionals at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Singapore annual conference at the Raffles City Convention Centre.
She said that she feels "a sense of excitement for both the profession and Singapore". "Excitement for the profession because of an estimated 12,000 people employed by accountancy-related firms, and another estimated 38,000 accountancy-trained professionals, who serve in key roles such as chief financial officers and finance executives within companies in other sectors."
Mrs Teo said these are jobs that pay well. But at the same time, the stress level in the profession is quite high, especially during "closing times", or the accounting peak periods.
"There is also a sense among some that as compared with other professionals, fees and income have not kept pace."
Singapore is seeking to be an accountancy hub and one key initiative is its own accounting qualification, the Singapore Qualification Programme which was launched last year in June. There have been more than 500 registered candidates, with the first batch into its second semester.
Mr James Lee, a member of the ACCA council, highlighted some critical factors that will affect the profession and businesses in general in the next 10 years.
These include changing social values and expectations of work, an increasing global population and an ageing society working well past the current retirement age. These are all creating a challenge for firms, which must use technology to integrate a diverse workforce that may consist of people from different generations, cultures and countries.
Mr Magnus Lindkvist, a so- called "futurist" who built his following by predicting trends of the future, urged firms to take risks and innovate, rather than just copy one another's successful products. Most industry developments are merely "horizontal changes", where firms and businessmen take successful products and sell them in different places.
Rather, "vertical changes" are when companies "create magic", but firms must be willing to experiment, be patient and learn from their failures, he said.