How is the market looking?

The question we get asked the most, but over the last 12 months the answer has varied considerably depending on when we were asked.

In the last few weeks, it has been a double-header of our year-end as well as finding ourselves in another lockdown, so it has given us a chance to analyse 2020 and provide a window into what the future will bring.

We’ll start with salaries…

Surprisingly, they have gone up.

ICAEW have produced a report last week suggesting 50% of accounting and finance professionals have received a pay rise in the past 12 months. … The previous year for comparison was 78% but still very much evident that for a significant number of employees, salaries have increased.

We have seen something similar, looking at the placements we have worked on in 2020, the vast majority have increased their salaries by moving companies.

What is really interesting though is that not one of these moves were purely money motivated, the overall package is very important, usually the deciding factor in a successful recruitment process, but there has always been another reason to begin the process in the first place.

When we speak with someone who feels that they are underpaid and it is their primary reason for seeking a new position, we always suggest addressing this first before progressing, as in our experience, those conversations reduce counter offers and complications moving forward. (We created a blog on this, not long ago.)

What has certainly changed over the last year is the vacancies we have worked on; the lack of Trainee and Junior positions has been very noticeable.

2020 will be the year that just did not happen for a lot of graduates and school leavers.

Because of working from home and the lack of options to train and mentor remotely, there have been a surge of Senior and experienced vacancies. … 95% of all the placements we made were with people who had over 3 years experience.

With the increase of vacancies at a more experienced level and firms seeking people who can work independently, this has added to the rise in the market rate for Seniors and Managers and I can’t see anything changing here soon.

The current market

We cover Accountancy roles in Practice and Industry and there has been a big difference in the market for both of these.

With Practice, recruitment returned to normal in September and is as buoyant as any other year. Aside from the fact we are now arranging Zoom interviews, there is very little difference and firms have continued to create positions which is great to see.

Industry, however, has changed, we haven’t seen the mass-redundancies / restructuring that we had in 2008 and 2009 but there are less opportunities compared to previous years.

Not surprisingly, the companies in Industry that have expanded over the last year are the ones that have benefited over the lockdowns such as; Online Retailers, PPE Manufactures and Life-Science companies to name but a few.

What will change the market for Practice is when Industry begins to pick up again and the appetite to recruit increases, as there is traditionally a well-trodden path from Practice into in-house roles in Industry, this will no-doubt create more of a need to look at strengthening the teams within some firms of Accountants.

As it stands currently, we moved into January with more vacancies open in Practice than there are people looking for a new position. … Whether this has been caused by reservations over what this year will bring or purely because January is one of the busiest months, we will find out in the coming weeks as we settle into February.

What is certain though, the need for people with experience of working within firms of Accountants will increase, not decrease in 2021.

2021 and beyond

We’ll look at the biggest positive first … COVID has sped up the push for flexible working, by years.

Most firms will be adopting a flexible working approach moving forward and for the first time ever, we have seen companies create fully remote positions allowing us to find people based purely on their skill set rather than location.

For Trainees entering the profession, this year is looking as questionable as last year. … Some firms have continued to take on graduates and school-leavers, although difficult to structure training with the current way of working, it will pay dividends in a few years to come.

Trainees are the Seniors and Managers of the future and with the lack of people starting now, this will be felt in a few years and likely push salaries higher as a result.

Looking into the future, although no changes to tax policy have happened yet, the Chancellor will be burning the midnight oil trying to work out how we can get the UK’s finances back on some sort of path towards stability.

Coupled with the recent Brexit deal and the ability to seek trading outside of the EU, these are likely to present challenges as well as opportunities for the Accounting profession.

Because of the above, we will see that the market will continue to develop and change and companies will need financial guidance more than ever

One thing is for sure though, it’s going to be an interesting year.