The Myth of the Creative Financial Worker: Evidence from Singapore and China
Tan, Kuo Siong
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The finance and accounting industry is generally portrayed in the media as being highly creative. However, little is known about the human capital of its workforce. This study adopts a human capital perspective by using self-reported surveys to determine the relative importance of skills and tasks as perceived by industry workers in Singapore and China. Findings show that cognitive, interpersonal communication and managerial-leadership skills and tasks are more important, whereas programming, mathematics and systems-based skills are largely perceived to be unimportant. Both cognitive and interpersonal communication skills have a positive impact on wages. In contrast to more celebratory accounts of the creative finance worker, the results in this thesis suggest that creativity is not a principal skill in the finance and accounting industry. Rather, the industry’s human capital profile may be better captured by cognitive and relational skills that are part of the cognitive-cultural economy (Scott, 2008). Singapore workers prefer to learn new skills or acquire knowledge using tacit means, whereas their China counterparts show a strong preference to learn using codified channels. Lastly, there is a significant amount of overlap in the most important and least important skills and tasks between the two groups. This suggests that the nature of human capital in the finance and accounting industry is rather similar between the two countries.