Kathryn Swan 11 Apr 2019 12:30pm

How Brexit affects recruitment in accounting

From a professional services point of view, firms have been investing heavily both in terms of headcount since the vote in 2016, as well as establishing specialist teams to advise clients on Brexit related issues

Caption: A look at how recruitment has already been affected, and how it will be

The public practice job market should remain resilient as the year progresses, but both job seekers and employers are not immune from the anxiety and change which the year will bring.

Looking forward over 2019, both the compliance and advisory business lines will be busy advising UK- and European-based businesses as to how to best navigate this changing market. As a people-dominated business, the profession relies on employing high calibre professionals who are looking for challenging and rewarding roles in what is likely to be a highly eventful year from both a political and economic point of view.

London has undoubtedly played a pivotal and vital role in the recruitment mood across the UK since the Brexit vote, although the profession has spent considerable time and investment in their regional offices. This is to ensure that client service is delivered differently, and in some cases from a more streamlined and more efficient way to deliver excellent client service.

The more stable job market around accounting and audit professionals have also as yet been less impacted by Brexit with demand for those services typically required for UK SME & owner managed business continuing despite wider economic issues. It is likely that the reliance and emergence of cloud based accounting softwares will only continue in the coming years, with the profession continue to invest in this service both from a staffing and investment perspective.

With the introduction of Making Tax Digital in April 2019, organisations have been putting plans in place to accommodate for the new systems and ensuring they are making their returns compliant. This new mandatory process will inevitably impact recruitment at the junior level, but would also suggest that there will be a future need for VAT professionals both in house and in the profession to correctly interpret this legislation and facilitate the technological transformation.

As professional services is likely to remain a candidate scarce market, opportunities for experienced and skilled professionals, particularly in tax technology/transformation and transfer pricing, are likely to have priority over more compliance dominated job seekers.

Improving efficiency and streamlining tax teams has resulted in a number of private equity backed companies, in particular appointing heads of tax for the first time, so 2019 could see recruitment impacted as these organisations then recruit at the more junior level. There has also been a notable increase in the number of project based roles across the professional services sector with organisations of all sizes either preparing for Brexit or cautious about adding to permanent headcount chose to select interim support.

There is certainly a need for hiring to help deal with Brexit, but the approach to hiring will probably be wary until there is more clarity. Candidates with extensive advisory expertise will be integral to the success of businesses and demand for niche skills will continue. However, candidate confidence and willingness to move jobs at all is likely to be the more indicative factor when we consider how Brexit may impact the profession.

Kathryn Swan is UK for lead professional services (accountancy practices) at Morgan McKinley