2018 commerce and industry salaries and contract rates for accounting and finance professionals in London, the Home Counties and the South West.
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2017 was an interesting year in the permanent market place, with a number of significant factors affecting confidence. The degree of uncertainty in both the economic and political landscapes has meant that hiring was slightly suppressed in terms of momentum, with a lot of roles taking quite some time to appoint. There is increasing confidence coming from clients that 2018 should see processes move quicker and with a greater degree of conviction.
At the entry level of the finance market (part qualified and transactional level roles), the job flow to market was broadly consistent; evenly spread across sectors and very much driven on a need only basis. For example, the roles that are essential for the day to day transactions of a business and would always be replaced like for like in any event of movement. Progressing into the qualified and senior market place is slightly more fragmented, sectors thriving include the tech and service verticals whilst those that have seen fewer opportunities include retail and consumer. This appears to back up some of the performance challenges that these sectors have been reporting in the press. The tech sector was the standout performer for growth, and whilst still not quite seeing the volume levels of some of the other sectors in terms of hiring, it is clearly the success story that will continue into 2018. Breaking this down a little further, FinTech (payment platforms rather than Challenger Banks) and GovTech (supporting Government infrastructure and development) will be the standout areas.
In terms of roles, the balance was still leaning in favour of technical and reporting roles, with an ever increasing compliance and regulatory focus spreading throughout the finance space.
We’ve seen a continuously decreasing proportion of commercial business partnering that seem to focus on top line sales and revenue, and an increase in roles that focus around cost cutting and refocusing.
Not too many changes were seen outside of the workplace in 2017, other than the ever increasing desire for workplace flexibility. 2018 will see this continue, with more employers providing flexibility to offer the work-life balance that is sought after by the millennial generation. Working from home and flexible hours being the two key points on the agenda.
Key trends that featured towards the later part of 2017, and will absolutely continue into 2018, are GDPR and diversity. Diversity and equality are on a continued ascendancy and should not show any signs of slowing; greater awareness of the topic by employers will make delivering change somewhat easier.
GDPR is currently a topic for discussion, but it is soon to become a point of action for businesses and consumers alike. It will affect everyone in some way, but the journey of who and just how they are affected is only just beginning. We advise everyone to do their own research and make their own informed decisions.
There was significant movement within temporary transactional and part qualified finance, whilst interim accounting hiring was not quite as busy.
Part Qualified (PQ) / Qualified (Q)
2017 saw a continued increase (15.7% year on year) of movement around temporary transactional finance roles within London. This has been most notably caused by a strong showing from a number of our e-commerce retail businesses, with the media and FMCG sectors also showing growth, although slightly less at 8.4% and 7.2% respectively. It is also worth noting that there was a sharp rise in credit control bookings which is yet another example of cash still being king in London, with businesses striving to bring in funds to improve their balance sheets.
To summarise, there was a great deal of movement within temporary transactional and part qualified finance roles in 2017 with the current outlook looking just as positive moving into 2018.
The finance interim market was a mixed market. Whilst the services industries continued to dominate the provision of interim assignments over the course of 2017, at circa 35%, we saw a small increase in interim projects coming to the market compared to the previous year.
Positively, we saw a 30% increase in assignments resulting from the adoption of new technologies and systems. This is a positive marker that businesses are investing into their organisations and all the signs are that 2018 should show year on year growth with assignments coming to the market.
Part Qualified (PQ) / Qualified (Q)
2017 as a whole was a lot more positive than our initial forecasts. The effects of the Brexit decision and subsequent negotiations didn’t have as dramatic consequences as we expected. Although 2017 was positive, we saw demand exceeding supply, especially positions like accounts payable and credit control. With London being one of the most competitive employment markets in the world, top talent is at a premium with candidates now being involved in multiple recruitment processes. This has typically resulted in candidates receiving multiple offers, and in turn, pushing the salary bandings up. We also observed a consistent demand for financial analysts throughout the year, as firms are being more strategic and analysing a lot more historical data and performances in order to maximise profit in an attempt to ensure that 2018 budgets and forecasts are realistic and achievable.
Whilst the overall message of 2017 was positive despite various challenges to trading conditions, the growth in the UK economy wasn’t huge. What affects this will have over the course of 2018 remains to be seen, but the positives we can draw from 2017 will continue into 2018. We saw a strong performance from our interim solutions team across all areas of senior finance, but most notably across projects that address technology or cost projects. On the flip side of this news, interim rates remained flat and there has been little growth for interim managers.
Part Qualified (PQ) / Qualified (Q)
Industry experience was the most frequent request we saw within transactional finance throughout 2017. We saw an increase in the amount of businesses, especially retail and ecommerce, looking to hire more and more from their competitors and within sector. One of the main reasons for this is the high volume nature within their payables and receivables teams, where attention to detail, coupled with speed and accuracy is paramount. Previous experience within similar companies was therefore the preference, with multiple examples where premiums were paid to secure the top talent.
Practice trained ACA’s are yet again one of the most sought after hires within the qualified finance space, although we have seen 17% more CIMA qualified accountants placed into temporary roles in 2017. In most, this is part of the ongoing demand for commercially focussed accountants.
Our clients looked for interim managers who can deliver a broad suite of work. A diverse profile puts a candidate in the driving seat to be able to secure interesting and challenging assignments. Our interim managers have been asked to deliver a whole host of tasks. The assignments often are a real blend of BAU work with change mandates, so having a foot in both camps really does help marketability.
Part Qualified (PQ) / Qualified (Q)
2017 saw a real change in mindsight from a lot of businesses that we work with. Flexible working has been high up on the agenda for a lot of businesses that we partner with. A lot of chat in the boardroom was around the need for flexibility in the workplace and the introduction of agile working. This has resulted in far better staff retention rates, with candidates in 2017 looking at the overall package and working conditions more than we have ever seen before.
As interim rates remained reasonably static due to a competitive market, this lead many interim managers to assess what they want out of their interim career. Many people are now looking at what else they can gain from an assignment. This can include a new piece of technology, sector worked in, or profile of project, on top of many other aspects that would enhance their interim profile.
Part Qualified (PQ) / Qualified (Q)
There were no new trends to note in 2017 within the transactional and part qualified space. From a qualified prospective, there is still an appetite to hire Tier 5 contractors into finance roles as it's been a proven successful route.
We have observed that M&A activity appears to be reasonably buoyant. This should result in a strong pipeline of interim assignments going forward into 2018. I would anticipate that technology will continue to drive the requirement of interim finance resources. This will sit across a number of roles from heads of finance, to finance director, CFO and a wide variety of finance projects.
New systems installations, business efficiencies and shared service centres lead to increased accounting opportunities and project lead work in 2017.
2017 finished on a high for the home counties business. We saw an increase of 5.5% vs 2016 in new job opportunities coming into the market, and an additional 12% increase in candidates entering the market vs 2016. Both give strong signs of an improvement in the market. An exceptional April ‘17 and a record Q3 for our home counties business demonstrates the market strength and we continue to be optimistic for 2018.
We saw the biggest increase in activity within the transactional finance remit - with more opportunities and more project lead work due to new systems implementations, business efficiencies and shared service centres being created. Qualified finance proved to be popular, mainly in regards to commercial finance positions. We noticed a trend that the level of specificity in the commercial finance remit increased dramatically. From management accountants, financial analysts and finance business partners, each have an added layer of complexity. Candidate choice is relatively strong within this remit, with most candidates displaying a desire to move into commercial positions. Part qualified and newly qualified vacancies offered the biggest challenge in the market for employers. Longer training contracts and better contingency planning from employers means that there are less candidates entering the market. We have seen candidates offered on the same day as the interview due to the current supply and demand. Financial accountants or technical accountants had more success in the beginning of the year due to certain legislation changes. A steady demand as per previous years. As the economy signifies, the employment sector is definitely picking up. As a result, the permanent market is busier than the contract/temporary market; however, this is a marginal difference.
Considerations for all job seekers: find a specialism and build on it. Finance business partners or commercial finance roles were most in demand. As a result, we found employers seeking candidates with experiences of; only overheads, only HR or IT, only sales, underwriting etc. Non qualified and part qualified candidates would need to expand on their career experiences and achievements within their CV. Employers ask for more within the CV’s before inviting individuals in for an interview. As ever, a candidate looking for a new role should offer flexibility in their criteria as with the more limitations put in place, coupled with the employer's criteria, it may take a very long time to find a new position.
An organisation that is keen to increase their retention of staff should really be identifying with their staff’s needs. Whilst it sounds obvious, I would measure the candidate's experiences and what they have not yet been exposed to. Can anything be added into the CV which can help further development. If that option cannot be offered internally, then the external market may well do and there is a risk of losing valued staff members. Most candidates who enter the market are not in it for money. It is more often due to wanting more development opportunities and experiences. From a candidate perspective, if the main motivator is salary, reflect carefully on; is that the right career move. Would it look good on a CV? The other aspect is that salaries have only increased marginally in certain areas; asking for a 15-20% increase is not realistic in the market. It would be fair for most to consider a 5% increase when moving from one employer to another. Be mindful though, employers are far happier increasing salaries once you are in the business and have proven your worth.
Similar to the South West and London trends, we have seen GDPR take priority for a lot of employers and the internal recruitment teams. We suspect this may slow down the hiring process slightly, or lead to more line management involvement.
Supply continued to outstrip demand for both interim and permanent finance professionals, keeping the accounting job market particularly competitive.
Despite the volatile political landscape, 2017 saw consistent growth (5.4%) and numbers of vacancies remained fairly similar to 2016. The digital economy continued to expand in the South West, supported by enterprise hubs and business acceleration centres, with Bristol now widely recognised as the smartest city in the UK. SME's and medium sized enterprises continue to expand ambitiously as we await the impact of Brexit, and there is a sense that it is business as usual for now. In particular, there were a number of examples of rapidly expanding private equity backed businesses that experienced significant growth. The interim market remained unpredictable with certain skill sets still in high demand, and a number of highly skilled finance professionals coming into the market in a short period of time due to restructuring and redundancies within some of the larger organisations in the region. Supply continued to outstrip demand in most areas.
Finance business partners are still in strong demand in the South West, as employers look to ensure they are strategically focused in the current economic climate. Newly qualified accountants transitioning out of practice also remained in high demand, with a steady flow of financial accountant roles on offer, offering the ideal opportunity for first movers.
There was a clear trend in organisations reviewing their current remuneration packages to try and secure and retain talent in the market, with companies also noticeably embracing flexible working and attempting to make themselves more attractive to potential job seekers. There is increasing evidence to suggest that the changing makeup of today’s workforce is forcing employers to adopt a more flexible hiring strategy, and become more agile and adaptable. Across the South West, organisations offer opportunities for ambitious and motivated graduates who they can mould and develop, and additionally, we are seeing an upturn in demand for multilingual candidates as various international shared service centres have sprung up in the region. It remained important for job seekers to focus on expanding their skills and competencies as organisations continue to be attracted to individuals with demonstrable examples of continuous professional development in previous roles.
Supply continued to outstrip demand for both interim and permanent finance professionals so the job market is competitive in the South West, and finance professionals are expected to be able to add value through business partnering, driving improvements and identifying potential efficiencies. Companies looking to attract and retain the best talent need to be mindful of how their culture is perceived and the opportunities on offer within their organisation. Remuneration packages need to be competitive, internal development needs to be clear, and values and company ethos are an increasing consideration, particularly for the millennial generation.
Diversity is still very much on the agenda, although more pertinent within larger organisations and the permanent recruitment market. As a region, the South West continues to be an attractive proposition for those looking to relocate and secure what they perceive to be a better work life balance. GDPR is an increasingly hot topic, with organisations reacting to the impending change in regulation and looking to bring in the right level of support to ensure they are compliant.