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Accountancy & Finance - Professional Practice

April - June 2016

The professional practice market continues to experience a shortage of high quality candidates. As a result there is strong demand for top talent, with Intermediate and Senior Accountants particularly sought after.

Employers are now starting to understand the depth of the candidate short market. In response, they are being very generous with salary and will recruit people who are at a lower level but show good potential.

As firms continue to focus on advisory work over simply compliance, there is an emphasis on communication and candidates with strong client facing skills are in high demand.

In other trends, many firms are transitioning in order to become all things to their clients, and as such now offer accounting services, financial planning, mortgage broking and self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) specialised services. They are therefore hiring accordingly.

Skills in demand

Excellent communication skills and the ability to be clear and concise are now a must for all candidates in professional practice. In fact, many employers regard communication skills as of equal importance to technical skills.

Recruitment activity remains strong for Intermediate Accountants and Senior Accountants in business services. The focus for most employers is on candidates who can complete a file whilst managing day-to-day interaction with the firm’s clients. Strong candidates will be rewarded with attractive salary packages.

Intermediate Accountants remain in very short supply across the board. Vacancies are not just replacement roles but new headcount in firms experiencing growth and thus expanding teams. Candidates must have excellent communication skills as these roles have evolved from purely compliance to include advisory services. Taking ownership of clients and managing relationships is already very important for candidates.

We are also seeing high demand for External Auditors, but not many candidates are looking to move right now. Senior audit talent is needed too, including Audit Managers and Accountants, preferably CA/CPA qualified, who come from a professional practice background and who are looking to stay within the industry.

Business Services Managers are also sought by firms. Candidates must have the skills to train and manage staff.

Senior Accountants, Intermediate Accountants and Business Services Managers are needed too in business advisory services. Firms require professionals with strong communication skills and genuine commercial awareness to fill client-facing roles.

In a localised trend, the Northern Territory needs professional practice candidates to fill long term vacancies in firms. Employers that operate on a national basis are flying internal employees up from interstate to assist their local offices with the workload temporarily until they can find a good candidate based in the NT. Some employers are responding to the acute shortage by recruiting candidates from the professional practice sector in Asia.

In Tasmania, External Auditors are in serious demand. With a push in candidates moving interstate within this space, all local accounting firms including Big 4, second tier, and local firms are seeking External Auditors with relevant experience who have either completed or partially completed their CA.

Candidate trends

Quality candidates are receiving multiple offers and leveraging their market position to secure a higher salary.

Most quality candidates with around five years experience are looking to move into commercial roles but will still consider opportunities in Big 4 firms if they are not already employed in such a firm. Likewise, candidates who have trained in a Big 4 firm are looking for new opportunities in a mid to top tier professional practice firm.

We are also seeing good quality tax candidates at the entry level scouting for new opportunities and firms are hiring.

Many candidates do not see the advantage of jumping from one practice to another unless the offer stands out. For example, if the firm has a higher BRW ranking, and the role offers greater work/life balance.

Candidates are also looking for roles that are split between compliance and advisory work to help build up what they can offer to new employers on their resumes.


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