The Big 4 firms have done less external recruitment over the past 12 months. And as they are the biggest employers of practising accountants, this has inevitably limited the movement throughout the profession. Where there is activity, it is often at a more senior level – partner, director or senior manager – where candidates will be expected to bring work to their new firm and later hire a team under them.
Nationally, the recruitment market has been quiet and salaries and benefits have remained static in every region. Nevertheless, there has been steady demand for auditors in London, the North West, the East of England, Northern Ireland and certain hotspots in the Midlands. Some key senior appointments within advisory teams in the capital should result in more recruitment as these people generate fees. In the North West, many firms are busy and thriving with those who cater to self–employed contractors growing their client base.
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But they are still cautious about hiring and only replace if they absolutely have to. Firms in the East of England are increasingly providing outsourced accountancy services to SMEs that lack their own accounting function. As a result, bookkeepers and staff with qualifications from the Association of Accounting Technicians are in demand.
Candidates who look to move tend to seek opportunities in a particular specialism such as media, insurance or not-for-profit. In these cases, they will change employer for similar, or even slightly lower, salaries. As always, good prospects exist in the profession for talented technicians who have a particular expertise. If they are teamed with an effective business–winner, they can prove an exceptional combination.
Changes to the audit exemption threshold for financial years ending on or after 1 October 2012 have freed more companies from the statutory obligation to have an audit. As a result, firms that provided audit services to SMEs will see those revenue streams cut. Undoubtedly, they will refocus their resources on accounts preparation and outsourcing work but in the longer-term, the new regulations mean that firms outside the top ten will train fewer auditors.
Despite the challenges that face the profession, the signs for the coming year are positive. Accountancy firms will grow as their clients become more confident about expanding again. For this reason, the profession must invest in its own future so it is equipped to provide the services its clients need.