Like many other industries, Australia’s accountancy and finance market is experiencing distinctive geographical trends.
New South Wales
In New South Wales the market is witnessing a swing back towards permanent recruitment. Employers in the state are now more likely to recruit a permanent employee over a temporary worker and there is a higher level of confidence in the market. In light of this confidence, many permanent roles are newly created.
Those employers that are hiring temporaries often do so in order to make the case that an additional permanent employee is needed. Once approval is gained these employers often make a permanent offer to their existing temporary worker.
Given the growing number of permanent roles, it is unsurprising that candidate shortages are becoming more acute. This is most notable for short-term temporary assignments since many candidates are pursuing and securing permanent roles.
Demand for short-term professionals is further exacerbated by the unwillingness of employers to consider anyone but the very best candidates who match a very particular list of requirements.
While this trend is evident at the senior finance level, it is most acute at the accounting support level. For example, for accounts payable positions employers are now unwilling to consider any candidate studying towards their CPA/CA or Masters. Yet it is now common for entry-level candidates to commence such study upon completion of their undergraduate degree. Candidates believe their additional study shows they are dedicated and want to get ahead, however employers view them as too focused on rapid career development and therefore unlikely to remain long-term in their accounts payable role.
In addition, when recruiting graduates more employers now have an extremely high standard and will only consider candidates with a distinction or above average. Consequently employers struggle to recruit from a narrow field of potentially suitable candidates.
Queensland too is seeing an increase in the number of permanent jobs.
Brisbane’s residential construction sector has led this growth, especially across transactional support functions as processing volumes increase.
New roles have also been created in Queensland’s SME sector as confidence and business performance improves, especially across niche manufacturing. Retail and education have seen positive vacancy activity too.
The Gold Coast region has recently experienced an increase in permanent hiring. However candidate shortages remain a challenge for employers, especially those with temporary assignments.
Tasmania’s market has been improving and additional vacancy activity is welcome. Hiring managers continue to prefer fixed-term contracts and temporary assignments.
Western Australian employers also continue to recruit on a temporary basis, although we are seeing temporary-to-permanent opportunities for high-quality senior candidates. Not-for-profit and Government roles are attracting a lot more interest from candidates as the market transitions away from being mining-led.
In Adelaide organisations are doing extensive due diligence before making any recruitment decision. Despite this, we have seen a slight increase in employer confidence to recruit. Sales are increasing in most industries and employers are therefore adding temporary assistance to their team. We also continue to see temporary roles evolve into permanent positions.
As the market slowly but surely gains momentum, the need for permanent headcount will increase in the near future.
In Darwin the local market is holding steady. Candidates are remaining in their current roles since local finance teams are not currently expanding and senior positions are often based interstate. In addition, interstate companies are entering the market and winning projects based off low charge rates. There is however demand for Asset Accountants, Financial Analysts and Financial Controllers.
In Victoria we are seeing more senior finance roles, predominantly within multinational organisations, such as Shared Services Manager, Finance Business Partner, Financial Controller and Cost Accountant. The willingness of senior candidates to change roles points to their confidence that they can advance their career by entering the jobs market. First and second movers from professional practice remain in high demand.
We are also seeing more part-time roles in SMEs, with a big focus on cultural fit over technical skills. Employers are willing to train candidates provided they are the right fit.
Skills in demand
In terms of skills in demand for the October to December 2015 quarter, we’re seeing high demand for Management Accountants. Companies want to closely examine costs and margins, which is creating demand for candidates with strong qualifications. They want staff to assist with operational reporting, interpreting operational and financial data, presenting data and explaining variances and trends to senior management and executives so that they can then make commercial decisions. Candidates with strong budgeting, forecasting, stakeholder engagement and Excel skills are also needed for temporary roles to capture data, review actuals versus budgets, liaise across finance and non-finance teams on those budgets and review forecasts. For permanent roles, employers want candidates with stability in their resume since they want a reliable new team member.
Experienced business partnering Analysts are also sought by larger organisations to ensure they lead from the front with business intelligence reporting to support sales and operations and maximise profits and control costs.
Commercial Analysts are needed too. These professionals are in high demand given the current cost-focused environment. They are responsible for maintaining quality and timely functional cost reporting and are the conduit between the business owner within the commercial department and the finance, operational or project team.
Hands-on Finance Managers with industry experience are sought as employers want to recruit a strong hands-on leader to support operational heads.
We’re also seeing demand for Financial Accountants with Big 4 audit experience. Given that candidates no longer receive a large salary increase by moving from practice into commerce, there are fewer candidates applying for these positions. The demand for candidates seeking their first move into commerce is high since organisations want to support growth while bolstering skill sets in their teams. This has typically been in medium to large businesses developing succession plans.
Project Accountants are sought to assist and help deliver key projects with finite timeframes. Candidates need to be able to capture costs and review contracts and procurement reporting. In particular, more companies are planning to upgrade their ERP systems to SAP and Hyperion, which is leading to increased demand for Project Accountants.
Tax Accountants in commerce with R&D experience are needed as companies look for efficiencies and cost savings.
Non-qualified and experienced Accountants are sought, as are intelligent and switched on finance graduates with some experience for temporary assignments.
Tasmania faces a unique set of challenges. The Apple Isle faces a shortage of Management Accountants and Financial Accountants. These candidates are in short supply for two reasons. Firstly there is a pay gap between industry and practice. Secondly as candidates qualify they look to move to Sydney, Melbourne or overseas. Good quality candidates are pulled towards the higher paying firms or the mainland and there is a shortage of candidates who are prepared to remain in Tasmania at the financial and management accounting level.
Darwin too is facing a major skill shortage. Financial Analysts are in short supply, while Asset Accountants and CA/CPA qualified Financial Controllers are also highly sought after.
Across the country we continue to see a severe shortage of accounting support candidates. One example is high-volume Payroll Officers who have experiencing processing payrolls of 500 and over. Payroll is an ongoing area of candidate shortage since few candidates choose it as a long-term career option. In addition, employers have very specific systems requirements such as ADP Payforce, Meridian and Chris21. Employers also look for candidates with good EBA exposure who can hit the ground running.
Accounts Payable is an area of continuous demand. Highly skilled candidates are needed in response to movement within teams, to boost headcount or for temporary and temporary-to-permanent opportunities. We’re seeing a particular need for candidates with SAP, which is increasing in popularity, especially in the big growth area of consumer goods.
Accounts Clerks are also needed. This position is the bread and butter of SMEs and employers need a reliable candidate to ensure the function runs like clockwork. Therefore both short and long term temporary as well as permanent positions are available.
Strong Credit Controllers and Accounts Receivable candidates are in very short supply and are secured quickly.
Assistant Accountants are sought by employers who like to recruit candidates who will develop and grow with the business over time.
Bookkeepers and all-rounders are in high demand by SMEs, especially smaller businesses that have one accounting professional in their headcount and therefore need a solid and reliable replacement when that person is sick or resigns. For SME's, bookkeepers are crucial as they ensure suppliers are paid, money is collected and the business runs efficiently.
Such accounting support professionals are quickly secured.
We noted above that employers are increasingly selective. For their part, candidates too have high expectations – especially those at the accounting support level in New South Wales. They are aware of permanent job growth and are therefore looking for a role offering long-term career progression. They are also less willing to look at temporary roles as they know their next permanent opportunity is just around the corner. They want a role offering flexibility, development opportunities and sustained growth or stability.
In other states, the supply of candidates is still strong however the availability of highly-skilled candidates is reducing.
Candidates in Tasmania and Western Australia are focusing on securing permanent roles, which contrasts with the trend from employers to offer temporary assignments.
For candidates, regardless of your location, a good quality CV has never been more important. Take your time to personalise it for the role you are applying for. For more CV advice please visit the career advice page of our website.