What will the accounting industry look like post-Covid?

These are challenging times for anyone keen to start a career in accountancy, and the difficult recruitment climate emphasises the value of an AAT qualification.

The job market has become incredibly competitive because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Workers who are being made redundant across different industries are investing in re-training in the finance sector, often using AAT as the route in. Employers are also getting used to doing things differently and considering, for example, the pros and cons of hiring apprentices rather than graduates. The impact of Covid-19 is stark, but thankfully the outlook is positive.

Bill Richards, UK managing director at global job site Indeed, says the accountancy sector’s share of all jobs on the site has slumped 17% since lockdown began in March. The overall trend in postings until the pandemic had been one of growth, with accountancy’s share up 10% since 2018. The company does not reveal actual job numbers.

“No industry has been immune to the impacts of Covid-19 and that includes accountancy,” says Bill. “Since lockdown there has been a fall in accountancy jobs, but the rate of decline has been nowhere near as dramatic as in other parts of the economy.”

The good news is that job postings are slowly beginning to exceed job seeker interest on the site. Bill expects the number of jobs to continue increasing over the coming months.

If you are looking at starting a career in the industry, Covid-19 has created some new growth areas for accountancy. These are types of accountants that are needed by businesses right now – and in all probability – the years to come too:

Insolvency practitioners

The finances of many companies have been skewered by the Covid-19 outbreak, with many of their revenue streams having evaporated. Businesses will be looking to cut costs and consolidate resources wherever they can. As such, in 2021, there could be a dramatic rise in mergers, meaning it’ll be a busy year for those insolvency departments tasked with restructuring Covid-hit companies.

Tax experts

With unemployed workers and crisis-hit firms paying less tax because their income and profits have sunk, the government will seek to raise tax from other sources. The Institute for Fiscal Studies recently warned that tax rises will be inevitable. Those accountants who are au fait with all things tax can expect to have their expertise called upon.

Skilled advisers

Dawn Clarkson, director of Yorkshire-based Clarksons Accountants, says clients need accountants more than ever. “[Before Covid-19] business advice used to take up 25% of our time – now, it’s 50%, with the other half accountancy tasks,” she explains. “People skills have come to the fore – understanding what makes people tick and encouraging clients to talk rather than make knee-jerk decisions is now essential.”

Digitally-aware accountants

Companies embarking on digital transformation journeys will need accountants to help them make sense of the financial costs – to ensure the process runs as smoothly and cost-effectively as possible. Companies will also be increasingly reliant upon data to help them forecast sales and target customers, so being able to understand and interpret such data could give them an edge over fellow job candidates. 

Cash flow connoisseurs

Cash flow has always been a problem for businesses – something brutally exposed by the financial hardships of Covid-19. Over the coming years (especially if there are further outbreaks of Covid-19), cash flow will still be a top priority for many firms, meaning accountants will be in demand for emergency planning, reviewing assets and liabilities, assessing income and eliminating any unnecessary spending. 

Mathew Kaye, senior recruitment consultant at Accountancy Recruit, says the number of jobs at technician level are probably around 50% below a year ago but the medium-term outlook is more optimistic.

“Anyone with an AAT qualification and some experience will find it easier at the moment, as it shows employers you can study and work at the same time and are committed to a career in accountancy,” he says. “There are a lot of senior accountancy roles to be filled and once they are, we expect to see a recovery in more junior positions.”

Mathew says people who have little or no experience in accountancy should consider temporary work. “We find that many people who accept three or six month contracts tend to be taken on full-time.”

Ultimately the key for anyone is to be as flexible and adaptable as possible and demonstrate a broad set of skills, so potential future employers can see how they would fit into their organisation.

Key takeaways

  • No industry has been immune to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the outlook is positive for jobs in the accounting industry.
  • There have been a number of new growth areas in accountancy as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Job seekers with an AAT qualification and some experience may find it easier to find a role in the accounting industry at this time.

Further reading:

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