Singapore’s Big Four accounting firms offer higher pay to keep talent

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) – The Big Four accounting firms are showering staff with pay increases in Singapore, where an acute labour shortage is driving a fierce contest for talent.

PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte lifted base salaries starting from July 1, according to internal documents from the two firms reviewed by Bloomberg News.

Ernst & Young had an off-cycle pay adjustment in April for some parts of the firm, on top of a special bonus payout last year and the annual salary review in October, it said in a response to Bloomberg queries.

KPMG said in May that it will raise entry-level salaries by as much as 20 per cent, along with providing “market-competitive bonuses”.

The push by Singapore’s biggest audit firms to offer larger pay cheques reflects the broader competition for skilled talent in the financial hub, where firms from banks to technology companies are expanding. A departure of expats during the pandemic, coupled with stricter rules on bringing in staff from abroad, also contributed to the worst shortfall of labour in decades.

Pay rises

At Deloitte, the increases were concentrated among junior roles, with basic pay for associates jumping by $500 to $3,500 per month, according to the internal document. Those for analysts rose by $600 to $3,800, with a more modest $100 to $200 boost for managerial roles.

The accounting firm reviewed salaries recently and adjusted them based on the “current market to remain competitive”, Ms Ong Siok Peng, talent leader for Deloitte Singapore, said in a statement in response to queries from Bloomberg News.

At PwC, “higher increments” than previous years were made to base salaries, according to its internal e-mail sent to staff. The firm is trying to keep both its compensation and benefits competitive, said Mr Chua Chin San, the firm’s human capital leader in Singapore, without giving details on the salary increases.

EY may add to its off-cycle salary bump. The firm makes adjustments to salaries and benefits “above and beyond” the annual review cycle “if needed”, according to Mr Liew Nam Soon, the firm’s Asean regional managing partner.

The salary increases came as firms struggle to retain staff. The average attrition rate among the Big Four firms here rose to 38 per cent in the 12 months ended Sept 30, 2021, compared with 24 per cent in the year-earlier period, according to figures submitted to the Government. Outside the Big Four, the median attrition rate among auditing firms in Singapore is even higher at 62 per cent, after doubling from a year before.

Employees have “skills and knowledge that make them highly appealing to the market at large, which means that attrition will be inevitable”, said Ms Janice Foo, head of people for KPMG in Singapore. The firm will do what is needed, “including on the remuneration front”, she said, without providing more details.