Hong Kong’s accountancy firms plan to hire more people this year, despite the economic slowdown, amid increased demand for consultancy services and a rise in IPOs which require auditing, according to industry experts.
The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA), the industry body for the 43,000 accountants in the city, said about 1,300 candidates had enrolled for its training programme in the past five years, with the number growing between 3 and 4 per cent each year.
“This year is likely to be a year of expansion for recruitment of accountants. Many accounting firms have a shortage of staff and there is no sign of a slowdown in hiring of both fresh graduates and experienced accountants this year despite the market volatilities,” said HKICPA’s newly elected president Patrick Law Fu-yeun in an interview.
Hong Kong and China recently reported their slowest economic growth in many years, largely a result of the trade war. The Hang Seng Index fell 14 per cent while the Shanghai Composite Index shed a quarter of its value last year.
For Hong Kong’s accountants, the slump in markets and economic growth has been more than offset by other factors; accounting giants EY, PwC, Deloitte and BDO all said they either planned to increase their hiring targets this year or took on more staff last year.
Law said the surge in initial public offerings in Hong Kong last year had boosted the need for experts to carry out traditional audits. A major overhaul of stock exchange regulations in April allowed pre-revenue biotechnology firms and companies with a dual-class shares structure to list for the first time.
The reforms successfully attracted blockbuster IPOs including the world’s fourth largest smartphone maker, Xiaomi, which raised US$5.4 billion in its July listing, and food delivery firm Meituan Dianping with a US$4.9 billion IPO in September.
These and other new listings helped Hong Kong to reclaim its crown as the top IPO market worldwide in 2018 in terms of funds raised.
Law said the current trend among accounting firms to diversify their business from traditional auditing services to consultancy services was also boosting hiring. Among the so-called Big Four, Deloitte and KPMG this year both launched legal services for the first time, following their rivals EY and PwC which did so some years earlier.