In the main, accountancy and finance jobs remain in high demand across the UK, but the majority of recruiters have warned that a shortage of candidates remains a concern.
Recruitment company Robert Half says the ongoing skills shortage has intensified competition for top performers in the sector. According to its recent survey of chief financial officers, 40% consider it significantly challenging to find qualified professionals – naming finance management, financial planning and accounting as the hardest roles to hire for.
Moreover, 12% of CFOs have no plans to increase salaries in the coming year and 11% hope to offer a rise to 20% of their team. The majority of them believe salaries will increase by just 2% for permanent staff, lower than inflation.
Robert Half expects financial services to remain heavily affected by the talent shortage. Almost half (49%) of senior leaders say they have talent concerns in light of growing demand in the asset management, real estate funds, debt market and FinTech industries.
As a result, financial services leaders are allocating budget towards hiring temporary staff to fill financial management roles (63%) and business/ financial analysis roles (53%).
A trend is emerging for employers wanting Big Four experience in analyst and business-partnering roles and they are placing strong emphasis on hiring for cultural fit.
Graduate and junior roles are the most in demand as they are likely to see a higher base salary than in previous years.
Matt Weston, managing director of Robert Half UK, tells economia, “The hiring climate in the finance and accountancy sector is expected to intensify this year.
“Skillsets are evolving – driven by increased automation and digitalisation. As a result, according to our 2019 salary guide, two in five CFOs admitted they are struggling to find qualified professionals, namely in finance management, financial planning and accounting.”
Weston says the City of London has been regarded as the beating heart of the UK’s financial services sector for decades, and salaries are still the highest in London, up 29% on the national average for 2019.
However, he points out that regions such as the South West and the North West have also enjoyed burgeoning reputations as financial hubs in recent years.
“Cities like Bristol and Leeds are benefitting from the diversification of strong job prospects – offering skilled workers competitive salaries and strong employee benefits.
“Within the regions around Bristol and Birmingham we are seeing employers having to offer remuneration packages comparable within the cities to attract the top talent to these positions.”
Technical skillsets are growing in demand, with skills such as data analysis proving indispensable.
“But CFOs recognise the need to achieve a fine balance and build a team with an even blend of both technical and softer skills.
“As digitalisation reaches new heights in 2019, commercial skillsets in the finance department will also become more sought after. Overall, accountancy team dynamics are pivoting to a more collaborative and communicative approach – crucial for business partnering.”
In particular, roles such as assistant accountants are constantly in demand.
This year, growth is expected in the number of CFOs looking to hire company and regulatory accountants, as these individuals bring the right expertise to companies growing through acquisitions and consolidating accounts.
But Robert Half warns they rarely remain on the market for long, so potential employers will have to act fast if they want to secure top talent.
According to Morgan McKinley’s 2019 salary guide, which will be published next week, Brexit planning has generally been positive for hiring, especially across the legal and tax professions.
Over the last year there has been uplift in demand for specialist hires in areas such as IFRS 9 and IFRS 15, valuations and regulatory reporting across London, as hiring managers recognise that they need high calibre professionals.
However, Marcus Williams, associate director of financial services at Morgan McKinley, warns that throughout 2018 there was a “noticeable decrease in top accounting and finance professionals actively looking for roles, perhaps caused by Brexit uncertainties”, which according to him “ultimately meant those looking to move could demand greater compensation”.
Williams says that strong technical ACA accountants have been in increased demand, including those with up-to-date knowledge of industry regulatory requirements.
He believes the ACA qualification will remain the most attractive, thanks to its technical input and its prestige.
Kathryn Swan, UK lead professional services at Morgan McKinley says, “Given the continued candidate scarcity, the job market for experienced fee earners is optimistic for the coming year, with anticipated recruitment across all service lines. Salaries have shown modest increases across compliance teams, with pronounced exceptions within advisory and tax.
“The impact of Making Tax Digital and the effect this will inevitably have on the market will become apparent into the coming years.”
UK recruiter Hays said this week that 52% of accountancy and finance professionals are planning to move jobs over the next year, while 56% of employers are planning to hire new staff.
Its Salary and Recruiting Trends 2019 guide revealed the top 10 roles that finance employers are looking for this year, which include accounts assistants, accounts payable clerks and credit controllers.
Karen Young, director of Hays accountancy & finance, said, “In our latest Hays Salary & Recruiting Trends 2019 guide, the majority (89%) of accountancy and finance employers said they had experienced a skills shortage of some kind in the past year, highlighting the continued challenge when trying to attract and retain the skilled finance professionals needed.
“Ongoing legislation and regulatory changes such as GDPR, gender pay gap reporting, auto enrolment and off-payroll working means that payroll professionals will also still be highly sought after in the year ahead for example.
“Candidates with demonstrable knowledge of data, information security and general controls are highly attractive to employers and it is these professionals that are likely to see salaries reflect the high demand for their skills. Additionally, employers are also increasingly looking at soft skills such as problem solving and negotiating skills.”
Meanwhile, CV Library reports that Aberdeen and Sheffield are the best cities for salaries in accounting, with pay packages rising 11% and 10.9% over the last year.
Exeter, Portsmouth and Brighton have also seen increases in accounting salaries, up 8.5%, 6.8% and 5.7% respectively.
Moreover, Edinburgh registered a 74.7% increase in accounting jobs being advertised in 2018 from one year earlier, followed by Glasgow at 31.9%.
Bristol came third with a 25.9% increase in jobs posted, while Portsmouth saw a 25.3% jump in jobs advertised.
Lee Biggins, CEO of CV-Library, says, "Employers in this sector are recognising that the market is very much candidate driven and are working hard to offer competitive packages to potential new recruits.
“It seems that Scotland's key cities are some of the best if you work in accounting, with average pay and the amount of jobs up for grabs jumping exceptionally. However, these professionals really have their pick of cities to work in this year, as they're enjoying an impressive average salary rise of 3.2% across the sector."
Reed Accountancy Salaries Guide, which was released last week, says advertised salaries have risen for the third consecutive year.
Reed notes there has been strong demand for finance professionals who can “lead from the front” as well as analyse big data and apply the findings in a useful way, and for experienced accountants who can manage processes and lead a team, even in the face of increasing automation.
Group financial controllers have enjoyed the strongest rise in salaries since 2016 (up 14.8%). The average salaries stood at £78,500 in 2018 and are projected to rise to £84,500 by 2020.
The largest increase in finance jobs advertised was registered in the West Midlands, where salaries rose 3.2%, while accountancy salaries rose more rapidly in East Midlands by 1.8%.
In London, accountancy and finance jobs grew more slowly at 0.2%. Project accountants saw salaries decrease by 3.9% however financial analysts enjoyed a 4.3% rise.
Collette Huckle, director of Reed Accountancy, says, “Uncertainty is the big theme across all sectors, and accountancy is no exception. Brexit will likely exacerbate the lack of skilled workers.
“We’re seeing a lot of counter offers from businesses looking to retain talent, so it’s important that firms offer the right salaries as well as support and perks.”
Top 10 accountancy and finance jobs for 2019
Accounts Payable Clerk
Finance Business Partner
Accounting and finance salaries – UK averages
Chief financial officer/finance director - £100,000
Director of audit and risk - £106,000
Finance director - £90,000
Group financial controller - £75,000
Financial controller - £65,000
Company accountant - £42,000
Group accountant - £60,000
Qualified management/financial accountant - £45,000
Finance systems manager - £65,000
Systems accountant - £55,000
Finance manager - £45,000
Financial analyst – £45,000
Project accountant - £57,000
Internal audit manager - £62,000
Tax manager - £75,000
Tax accountant - £45,000
Accounts assistant - £19,500
Advertised salaries by region
Salaries have grown 2.4% against the 1.8% UK average in the New Year. Analysts saw their salaries rise to £38,300 from £35,100 in 2018. Finance directors were in high demand, with offers reaching £88,000, compared to £85,600 last year.
However, accounts payable managers saw their salaries fall to £33,300 from £34,200.
Salaries have risen by 2%, with finance directors once again seeing salary offers rise to £85,300 from £81,700. One of the biggest increases was among financial analysts pay, which rose 5.1% to £39,200. However, finance business partners saw job packages offers decline from £48,100 to £46,500.
Payroll assistants and accounts assistants saw salary offers rise 2.1% and 2.4% respectively, to £19,800 and £21,900.
The capital registered one of the slowest growths at 0.2%. However, the majority of roles enjoyed an increase in salaries being offered at the beginning of 2019.
Salaries among financial analysts increased 4.3% to £53,700 and among credit controllers rose 3.7% to £28,100.
Finance directors in London are paid on average £102,700, up from £101,300. But group financial controllers, one of the better-paid roles, saw their salaries stand at £89,00, down from £91,000.
Morgan McKinley noted that jobs in London dropped to a seven-year low in December, with 52% fewer jobs available than one month earlier. It also highlighted a 40% decrease in professionals seeking jobs in the City.
Financial accountants saw salary offers being reduced to £39,400 from £40,400 this year, but the majority of roles in the North East have seen their salaries grow.
Overall, pay packages being advertised at Reed grew 1.8%, with accountant assistants, credit controllers and management accountants in high demand.
Advertised salaries for finance directors rose from £75,900 to £78,300, while group financial controllers saw salaries being advertised at £70,000, up from £67,500.
Contrarily to the North East, financial controllers saw advertised offers drop from £69,100 to £66,700.
Advertised salaries in the region grew 1.4%, with finance managers in high demand. Job offers averaged £46,400, up from £44,800 in 2018.
James Bracewell, CFO at MPM Products, told Reed, “The North West has continued to be a commercial and innovation hub, with a strong finance community underpinning the success of the region.”
Some of the highest salaries increased were seen among management accountants (4.4% to £33,400) and credit controllers.
Salaries grew at a slower rate at 0.6%, similar to what was observed in London.
Project accountants saw salaries increase 4.7% to £49,200, but finance directors saw them slump from £90,800 to £85,200.
Wendy-Anne Gibson, chief operating officer at Pye Business Solutions Ltd, said in the report, “There will be a rise of the project manager and transformation specialists, as companies assess their make up to ensure they are lean and effective, with the right controls in place to move forward.”
Advertised salaries grew by 0.8%, with several roles seeing them remain similar to 2018 levels. These included finance directors, with salaries at £76,600 and management accountants (£35,500).
However financial accountants saw advertised salaries decline £1,600 to £42,600.
Wages rose at the fastest rate across the UK at 2.2%. Advertised salaries for finance directors jumped from £86,700 to £93,900, while project accountants’ pay rose 6% to £51,000.
Yorkshire and Humberside
Assistant accountants have seen advertised pay packages drop 4.2% to £20,700, and Reed expects salaries to remain at £21,300 in 2020.
However, financial controllers’ salaries jumped 4.5% to £48,800 and could rise further to £52,000 over the next 12 months.
Salaries are lower than in other regions, with finance directors – the best paid in the list– being offered £77,400. This is still an improvement from last year’s £75,000 and salaries are expected to reach the £80,000 mark by next year.
A few jobs have seen small decreases in salaries this year, including finance business partners, commercial accountants, management accountants and financial accountants.
According to Reed, jobs being advertised in Scotland have seen sluggish growth. Finance managers saw pay packages on offer drop to £45,200 from £46,600, while accounts payable managers are seeing salaries fall to £31,700 from £32,500.
However, group finance controllers are in high demand, with salaries rising £2,700 to £74,900.
Finance directors are expected to see salaries being advertised at £87,400 over the next year, compared to £83,700 currently.
Accountants have enjoyed steady advertised salary increases, with finance managers being in particular demand. The average pay package on offer has risen 4.9% to £43,100 and is expected to rise to £46,400 by 2020.
Finance directors, once again the best paid on the list, saw salaries being advertised at £81,000, up from £78,500 since last year. Group financial controllers also saw jobs being offered at £72,500, up from £69,900.