As previously discussed, the EU referendum undoubtedly had an impact on practice jobs particularly within the financial services sector during the latter part of 2016, with uncertainty causing a significant slowdown in recruitment within the banking community. This in turn trickled down through to the professional services practices, in particular the Big 4.
However, there does seem to be some green shoots of recovery with two of the Big 4 practices actively recruiting within their insurance and investment management departments.
Jobs remain readily available in other areas of practice, although this is mostly owing to a severe candidate shortage, with a lot of companies looking for the same sort of profile - typically individuals from a similar background, who are not only technically competent but able to communicate with stakeholders at all levels.
In the first half of 2017, top 20 practices are continuing to recruit and I am finding that there are a lot of vacancies at manager level across all sectors, and candidates that have the relevant experience who are active in the job market are finding themselves spoiled for choice.
The sectors where I have seen the most demand tend to be niche areas such as insurance, or the third sector (Non-profit and government)
Also areas outside of London, tend to be challenging with a lot of top 20 practices struggling to recruit in areas such as Bristol, Cambridge, Ipswich, Southampton and Norwich. Where the local market cannot satisfy demand, I am finding that job seekers who require visa’s from overseas with relevant experience within a chosen field are being considered.
With the increase in audit thresholds, a lot of the smaller businesses are no longer conducting audits, which has both positive and negative repercussions for financial service professionals and job seekers.
Many companies that have traditionally required an audit no longer do so, as long as their turnover is below £10.2 million. This will mean a loss in revenue to medium sized auditing practices. This is turn, will lead to fewer jobs being created by these employers.
On the positive side, it has meant that mid-tier financial service practices have had to work hard at introducing new areas to supplement their revenue streams, which will lead to new roles being created. In particular, we expect a larger volume of outsourcing and accounting roles to be on offer from these firms moving forward.
I also anticipate that smaller practices will join forces and merge over the course of the coming year. ‘Strength in numbers’ could definitely be the prevailing philosophy in the latter part of 2017, especially with revenue streams being squeezed.
As professional services practices continue to diversify I also expect new hires to embrace these changes. Business development will be key, as decision makers will be looking for individuals that are capable of selling different facets of the business. This includes accounting, and outsourcing services, which are becoming more prevalent as practices look at new ways to supplement their income. I have also seen an upturn in vacancies within insolvency and see the continuing for the rest of 2017.
This is why soft skills will be just as important for the technically strong auditor who is increasingly expected to up-sell and recognise opportunities for new revenue streams outside of traditional auditing.
From a job seeker's point of view, the ability and willingness to work across a number of different services lines will be crucial, as firms will look to get more value for money from new hires.
From an employer’s point of view, recruiting is becoming much more competitive as candidates with the appropriate skill sets are becoming increasingly rare. This means that talented candidates will receive multiple offers, and the firms that offer the most attractive packages will, more than likely, win the race. Auditors work long hours during the busy season, so we expect benefits such as TOIL (time off in lieu) and overtime to be common place in competitive job offers next year. Some practices, are even known to pay out signing on bonus’s to entice new members of staff.
Diversity is continuing to be key in 2017, with a number of the employers that we work with stressing the continued importance placed on improving this area; accountancy has always been associated with being a male dominated industry, albeit big efforts made to try and change this.
In a bid to improve work/life balance for employees, professional services firms are increasingly offering flexibility in the workplace. Examples of this can be reduced working hours or the ability to work from home, which is particularly beneficial to professionals with certain disabilities, as well as those with complicated child care arrangements.
In 2016, 95% of candidates we recruited were based in the UK, although we would expect the amount of international candidates to increase next year, as firms struggle to meet their recruitment requirements. A number of firms that we have spoken to are applying for licences that will give them the ability to sponsor overseas candidates.
Whilst the process of sponsorship is time consuming and costly, it is increasingly necessary for firms that want to ensure that staffing levels are maintained.
The audit market will continue to be buoyant with the bigger practices increasingly winning more business, and needing a talent pool to be able to make sure that they deliver on their promises and continue to hit deadlines.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the market, or any discussions