KPMG partner: Singapore graduates must have “the right attitude”

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KPMG is stepping up its graduate hiring in Singapore, but if you’re looking to join the firm, you need to come with "the right attitude" and not have a “sense of entitlement”, says a locally-based partner.

“The best way to recruit is to invest in talent early and mentor people, especially in their first two to three years,” says Satya Ramamurthy, who heads KPMG’s management consulting practice in Singapore and also leads its coverage of infrastructure, government and healthcare.

“We have a mandate to hire graduates and we’re also increasingly bringing in people who’ve completed Masters degrees,” he adds. KPMG does not provide campus hiring numbers, but it is recruiting across different academic disciplines – including arts and science – not just accounting and finance.

Ramamurthy advises graduates to “come on board with the right attitude”.

“One of the problems for some people in the current generation of graduates in Singapore is a sense of entitlement,” he explains. “They think ‘I’m entitled to what I get in my career’ as opposed to going the extra mile in their jobs.”

“If you’re asked to do something extra at work, don’t say ‘this isn’t my job’, think of how important it is to help your colleagues and learn from it in the process,” says Ramamurthy.

He also believes Singaporean graduates should take more “risks” in their careers.

“Don’t always go for the easy option. If you’re asked to work in Indonesia, for example, don’t say ‘will I get clean towels and water?’, think seriously about the opportunity it will give you,” he says.

“The majority of us in Singapore are used to a very comfortable standard of living and level of infrastructure. Sometimes young people here find it hard to pack their bags and go work where they’re most needed. So we generally need a change of mindset,” says Ramamurthy.

Away from graduate recruitment, Ramamurthy says KPMG’s management consulting practice in Singapore is “hiring organically, driven by the needs of clients”.

KPMG does not set annual recruitment targets for experienced staff, but Ramamurthy says demand for consulting services in Singapore is particularly strong in sectors such as banking, insurance, healthcare, and supply chain and logistics.

“Cyber security has also become a hugely important field and it’s on the mind of every board. One of the challenges of expanding in cyber security consulting in Singapore is finding the right people – the talent pool is fairly small,” he says.

As well as hiring from banks, technology firms and other consultancies, KPMG also plugs talent gaps in Singapore by relocating its staff from abroad.

“Clients’ problems are increasingly global in nature, so we often put employees on secondment into Singapore and vice versa. If a client has an issue to deal with in Europe and the skills they need are in KPMG in Singapore, we’ll look to move people,” says Ramamurthy.

“Ensuring international mobility means that drops in the local business cycle don’t necessarily mean redundancies. Our staff could be in demand overseas,” he adds.

What’s the one thing that every consultant at KPMG Singapore should be good at?

“It’s important to know how to work in a cross-cultural environment. You can’t rely on your technical knowledge alone – especially if you’re working with a client based in a market like Indonesia – you need cultural understanding and you might need language skills too. There’s no silver bullet for finding people with this combination of skills,” says Ramamurthy.

Careers in the consulting industry are changing rapidly as clients place different demands on Big Four firms.

“Our clients want faster, shorter interventions from us, supported by technology that doesn’t take months or years to implement. All consultants must be tech savvy even if they don’t directly work in digital,” says Ramamurthy.

“There’s also a trend that clients are demanding that consultants come up with a series of small prototype fixes for different aspects of their business, rather than one big overarching solution,” he adds.

Ramamurthy has been at KPMG (which came in joint-equal position as a professional services firm among Asian respondents in the eFinancialCareers Ideal Employer rankings) for 25 years in total.

“I qualified here as a chartered accountant in India, and then worked for Unilever before returning. But while I went out as an auditor, I came back to KPMG as a consultant,” says Ramamurthy.

“I’ve stayed here because of the broad range of careers on offer – I’ve never got stuck doing one thing. I’ve done consulting in government, finance and management, for example,” he adds.

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