IT is time for public accounting firms in Singapore to rethink their hiring practices and take on more employees from backgrounds other than accounting, said Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC) chairman Michael Lim on Wednesday.

Mr Lim was the keynote speaker at the CPA Congress 2014, organised by professional accountancy body CPA Australia and attended by more than 300 accounting professionals.

The SAC is the statutory body, established last year, tasked with transforming Singapore into a leading global accountancy hub for the Asia-Pacific region by 2020.



"The (accountancy) sector has come into its own, these past two years," Mr Lim said in his speech. "Few sectors or industries come close to having such diverse stakeholders; and I believe this diversity is what keeps things interesting.

"Today, diversity is pervasive (and) it comes in many forms. What the accountancy sector lacks is not the widely debated gender diversity; I believe that we're doing quite well with women in leadership roles. What the sector needs is diversity in the workforce, comprising talents from different backgrounds and qualifications."

He said a more diverse employee base would make for a better performing one. And he said that the public accounting firms - which make up the bulk of the sector - ought to lead the charge.

"I know a few firms that have started to take the plunge and recruit graduates from the science, social science, mathematics and engineering fields. This may seem like a risk-taking endeavour, but I applaud their vision. The broadening of the talent search to include those that come from diverse fields and experiences will be one of the many ways to help the sector flourish."

Mr Lim also cited the Singapore Qualification Programme (Singapore QP), which is a post-university qualification for professional accountants. Taking in graduates from various backgrounds and disciplines, Mr Lim said the Singapore QP "exemplifies this diversity model" and is a "trailblazer in diversifying the talent pool in the sector".

This year's CPA Congress also saw the launch of the third and latest collection of the professional body's Corporate Governance Case Studies - a highly successful tome, which seeks to promote better corporate governance and transparency.

Edited by associate professor Mak Yuen Teen of the NUS Business School, this latest collection focuses on companies across global markets - such as Manchester United, Facebook and Goldman Sachs - that have been in the spotlight in recent years over their governance practices.

CPA Australia also launched CPA Australia - Our Singapore Story, a glossy, full-colour, 218-page book charting the professional body's 60 years in Singapore, in conjunction with that anniversary this year.

Melvin Yong, Singapore general manager of CPA Australia, who authored the new book, said: "The book thematically recounts our distinguished early years in Singapore, chronicles our current dynamic growth, and anticipates how we may embrace the next lap. It profiles the many critical milestones that have defined CPA Australia in Singapore and, above all, our members and the accounting profession."

CPA Australia also signed a cooperation agreement with SAC, at Wednesday's event, to collaborate on activities to promote the growth and development of the Singapore accounting profession.

CPA Australia's Singapore divisional president, associate professor Themin Suwardy, said the agreement would lay out the framework in which the two bodies could partner in areas of mutual interest "and bring topical and relevant projects to market quickly".