FP&A Challenges in the Middle East and Singapore

The Middle East

Melnychuk met with 14 different companies in Qatar. In contrast to Dubai, where she has observed the FP&A function developing steadily, FP&A in Qatar seems to be struggling a little more.

Even the term “FP&A” is still relatively unknown in Qatar; it is still commonly referred to as “planning and analysis”, “business control”, or simply “control”. Even US-based multinational corporations (MNCs) that operate in Qatar – which are very familiar with the term “FP&A” – still refer to it as “business control” when operating in the country. It is often combined with the financial reporting function and does not exist as a separate entity.

The UAE, in contrast, is seeing strong FP&A growth. While this is partially due to the presence of a multitude of global companies, many of the individuals residing in Dubai also have more of a sense of how Western companies operate. “In the UAE there are more expats with knowledge and experience in FP&A – people who have travelled the world and some of them have been with big American and European companies,” Melnychuk says. “There, you have a mixture of people; people from Western culture and Western companies. The majority of them know FP&A.”

Companies in the UAE, as anywhere in the world, find it difficult to acquire FP&A talent. In Qatar however, this challenge is even more profound. The talent pool consists primarily of traditional accountants and finance people, she explains. “However, the FP&A mentality is creative, forward-looking and very analytical. Qatar companies are starting to realise the difference and focus on the development of people.

“The message I received in a lot of my meetings with chief financial officers (CFOs) and finance directors in Qatar is that they would like their people to become more forward-looking, analytical business partners, and better communicators.”

Given this situation, many companies in Qatar have been forced to seek talent outside of the country. “To be honest, I didn’t meet any local finance people,” Melnychuk says. “All of them were foreign. But unlike the UAE, where you will meet a lot of Westerners, the FP&A people in Qatar are mostly from India, Pakistan and other Middle Eastern countries.”

Singapore

Melnychuk also recently travelled to Singapore, which she sees as a very promising market for FP&A. She even believes it may be worth locating an FP&A Club in the rapidly-growing financial centre sometime in the future, and sees huge potential for AFP’s Certified Corporate FP&A Professional credential.

Singapore is a very well-established market and has a strong and diverse finance community, Melnychuk explains. She had meetings with 14 companies there, and many of the FP&A professionals she met with were native to the area and locally educated. It is still a popular destination for expats as well, however.
FP&A is a fairly well-known term in Singapore, and companies recognise its importance. However, while the city-state is very dynamic with a diverse pool of financial professionals, companies in Singapore also understand that talent can be difficult to find. “They recognise that FP&A talent is something to treasure,” Melnychuk says.

Singapore also is very strong in education. “They have very high standards – this is why local finance people are very strong analytically.”

One area where Singaporean FP&A professionals might need to improve is in their ability to speak up when necessary, Melnychuk suggests. Expats informed her that many of the locals have a tendency to be shy and hesitant to point out problems to their superiors. “This culture is really an obstacle for FP&A people, because they need to be influential and if they see something that is not good news, or if people are not exactly right, they should have the stamina to go ahead and talk about this,” she says.   

Nevertheless, the most important thing is to find legitimate FP&A talent, and companies in Singapore recognise that. “Companies realise that the traditional accounting mentality doesn’t work anymore – that when they hire these accountants, very often, it’s not enough,” Melnychuk says. “That is why the demand for FP&A certification there is really high. There is a knowledge gap that exists for FP&A people, and the certification can fix that.”

More information on the FP&A Club is available here. For information on AFP’s Certified Corporate FP&A Professional credential, go here.

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