How working abroad can boost your finance career

Working Abroad Boosts Career Prospects - Thinkstock

In an improving economic climate, there are various opportunities for talented finance professionals across a range of industries and sub-sectors. Employers are looking to build their teams as they position themselves for growth, and they are on the hunt for top talent - individuals who can add value to their organisation. This means the job prospects are good for finance professionals - those who can prove their skills and experience to potential employers - can progress their careers and boost their income.

But inevitably, increasing confidence about the health of the recruitment market is encouraging more people to target new jobs. This means there is still strong competition for the top roles, despite increased job availability. Some 49 per cent of employers surveyed by Robert Half said they had witnessed a rise in voluntary turnover, as employees target jobs opportunities elsewhere.

The upshot of this for finance professionals is that they must do all they can to boost their personal brand - gaining qualifications, hard and soft skills, and wide and varied experience within the sector. They will be going up against other similarly-qualified individuals for the same top jobs, and need to do all they can to differentiate themselves from the rest of the candidate pool.

  • The value of working overseas

One of the ways finance professionals can stand out from the crowd is by adding international work experience to their CV. Many employers offer the opportunity to transfer to an overseas office - potentially in a global finance hub such as Hong Kong, Singapore, New York or Frankfurt - on a temporary basis. And for those seeking a permanent contract overseas, there are always employers eager to bring in UK-trained professionals - particularly those with foreign language skills.

Professionals need to recognise the value working in a different culture - and financial jurisdiction - can add, as they learn more about their role, sector and industry in general. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants says moving to work abroad shows potential employers that you are flexible, and willing to tackle a different set of challenges to your peers. "There is nothing quite like the adventure of living and working in another country," the accountancy body notes.  "You will also get to explore another culture and maybe even learn another language. It will boost your career experience and prospects."

  • Employers value international experience

Employers certainly appreciate the skills and knowledge that can be acquired operating overseas, as emphasised by a recent Robert Half study. Almost six in ten (59 per cent) financial services leaders surveyed said an employee's chances of promotion 'improve greatly' if they have worked abroad. In medium-sized (76 per cent) and large (81 per cent) organisations respectively, international experience is seen as being even more important. Just seven per cent of respondents said international experience has no impact at all on their recruitment and/or promotion decisions.

Of those surveyed by Robert Half, 63 per cent of finance chiefs claimed working abroad develops cultural understanding, while 62 per cent believed it improves commercial skills. Other perceived benefits of working internationally included communication and linguistic ability (57 per cent), global market understanding (51 per cent), specific product knowledge (50 per cent), improved work ethic (35 per cent), technical expertise (12 per cent) and international accounting, regulatory and/or banking standards (nine per cent).

  • Are finance professionals missing a trick?

Yet despite the value placed on overseas experience by employers, relatively few UK professionals are pursuing such opportunities at present. Just 13 per cent of financial services workers surveyed by Robert Half were found to be taking advantage of internal secondment opportunities during their career. The rest of the field are potentially conceding an advantage to the minority who have worked abroad - and could come to rue this when appointments are made for the top jobs.

Neil Owen, global practice director at Robert Half Financial Services, commented that international assignments "greatly improve" the chances of promotion and career progression for finance professionals. He said the "rapid pace" of globalisation and adoption of global regulatory and banking standards are "key factors" driving demand for professionals with global business experience.

"International know-how is becoming a career imperative for tomorrow's top finance executives," Mr Owen added. When talented professionals work abroad, they ultimately bring back experiences and insights that can ensure their organisation remains competitive on a global scale, he claimed.