Finance and accounting 2018 recruitment outlook

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As in 2017, the finance and accounting profession in 2018 will be shaped by major ongoing themes impacting recruitment, business and the workplace.

Not least of which will be that accounting professionals, particularly those with the right skillset and cultural fit, will remain highly sought after.

According to recruitment consultants Hays, 76% of accountancy and finance employers said their top challenge when recruiting will be a shortage of suitable applicants.

Meanwhile, 59% said they had experienced moderate skills shortages in 2016-2017. The main causes have been competition for job roles and opportunities, followed by fewer people entering accountancy and finance roles – which can only be good news for finance students and professionals.

Technology continues to transform

Advances in technology are changing the nature of opportunities available within finance, says Lee Owen, a senior business director at Hays Accountancy & Finance. “For example, there is increased appetite for accountants and finance professionals who can also work as business analysts and indeed data scientists, and use their technology skills to their advantage to further their career. Professionals with knowledge of big data, data analysis and the ability to interpret data for business operations will be sought after.”

Continued Brexit uncertainty

Brexit has caused considerable recruitment uncertainty throughout the EU. And with no concrete deal in place for Brexit, a lack of solid information will always create a space for speculation and rumour, further fuelling uncertainty around hiring patterns in the EU. “While no major impact has been felt so far, as Brexit becomes a reality we would expect to see the job market slow down in response,” says Chidozie Ononeze, consultant, accountancy & finance – PQ and transactional, at recruitment specialists Investigo.

Improving productivity

“Hiring in the accounting and finance landscape has seen a clear shift from focusing purely on efficiencies to improving the overall productivity of the finance function,” says Matt Weston, director at Robert Half UK. “CFOs are investing in finance transformation and automation as the need to improve and upgrade systems to meet the business demands increases.

“Finding employees with the right skills is at the forefront of this shift, with nearly half (46%) of businesses planning the creation of new teams to tackle digital transformation. Our research shows that a further third (31%) of CFOs have plans to hire additional headcount.”

Rise of high growth start-ups

“This has been a developing trend within 2017 and set to continue into 2018,” says Chidozie. “Often fast paced and rapidly evolving these start ups provide an attractive alternative to blue chip firms. The chance to be part of creating a successful business is a big pull for accountancy professionals looking for their next challenge.”

Talent war – the fight continues

“Our latest research has found that the majority of CFOs are finding it challenging to identify and attract skilled accounting and finance professionals, a trend that has significantly increased over the last three years,” says Matt. “As finance departments are looking for not only the technical skills, but also the right soft skills and cultural fit, finding the right accounting and finance professionals can be challenging.”

The battle for tech-savvy part and newly qualified accountants is being keenly felt throughout the private sector, says Lee. “In medium to large organisations, professionals are needed to help conduct increasingly complex data analysis using sophisticated software in order to provide more informed commercial insight.”

School leavers and apprenticeships

“The quest to secure a strong, diverse workforce has already seen an increase in businesses investing in school leaver positions and apprenticeships as an alternative to the traditional graduate hiring model,” says Chidozie. “We expect to see this trend continue as companies look to fish from wider talent pools for their future leaders.”

Work/life balance

“This is now listed alongside salary and benefits as a major influencer when choosing a company,” says Chidozie. “Professionals want guaranteed flexibility from prospective employers. We expect to see work/life balance become even more of a factor in candidates making their decisions when deciding between roles.”

Emphasis on the overall package

“Trends would suggest accountancy and finance professionals care less about salary and more about the total package,” says Chidozie. “Companies offering a flexible package with gym membership, study support, flexible working and healthcare alongside a base salary are more likely to appeal to top talent than those that don’t.”

Key skills for 2018

  • Effective communication skills
  • Financial systems knowledge (ERP/SAP)
  • Financial modelling
  • Stakeholder management
  • Advanced Excel (V-look ups, PivotTable, SUMIFs)
  • Commercial awareness and business acumen
  • Business partnering
  • Double-entry accounting proficiency
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong organisational skills

In demand roles

  • FP&A and commercial roles
  • accounts assistants
  • assistant accountants
  • bookkeepers
  • company accountants
  • purchase and sales ledger clerks

Neil Johnson is a freelance business journalist who contributes regularly to trade publications and member organisations, covering employability, recruitment, business trends and industrial analysis.

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