New accounting firm is doubling Singapore headcount, and paying big

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Professional services firm Grant Thornton is making a major advisory push into Singapore. It has plans to double its current – admittedly small – headcount and will have up to 300 people in the city state in the next five years.

Grant Thornton currently has 25 employees, but plans to double this by the end of the year with a focus on its advisory business, rather than tax or audit.

"The big opportunities are in advisory," says Singapore CEO Peter Allen, adding that statutory audit in Singapore is extremely aggressively priced, and is too competitive for a new entrant.

He’s also well-aware that he has to compete with the Big Four for talent on the ground and says it will offer "a package better than any of the major competitors". This means bigger pay, but also softer factors like non-monetary benefits such as sponsoring qualification exams, more credit for study leave.

Allen also says that there’s a better work-life balance than the Big Four. Allen recalls he once had two young accountants from a Big Four firm broke down in tears in the midst of an interview because of the number of hours they were required to work. "We won't work you 18 hours a day," pledges Allen.

Grant Thornton will also focus on rolling out its grad scheme in Singapore, and will be scouring local campuses for recruits. It suggests that the selling point is the fact that they don’t ask graduates to sign a contract requiring them to stick around upon qualification – a tactic of the Big Four, they say.

While the Singapore office of Grant Thornton has just opened, reviews of the firm on US-based website suggest that working hours can still be demanding. One Grant Thornton employee points to "long hours during busy seasons”, which is similar to Big Four professional services firms, while another complains about the “stigma of not being Big 4". Generally, however, employee reviews were relatively positive.



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