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Accountancy and finance grows but salary dissatisfaction remains

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With Brexit, political infighting and some uncertainty around political and economic structure for the UK, you might think that financial employers would be tentative about recruiting, but what I’ve observed is that there is a pragmatic approach towards recruitment for finance professionals. This is supported by a relatively optimistic outlook for the next year, despite concerns around future investment, wage pressure and the scarcity of suitably skilled candidates.

Anticipations of growth

Research we conducted for the Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018 guide identified that the vast majority (95%) of accountancy and finance employers anticipate their organisation’s activity levels will increase or stay the same over the next 12 months. This is very positive, however only just over half (52%) of the survey respondents predicted growth, which is slightly more subdued than we have seen in previous years.

So while growth is still anticipated by the majority, it’s not entirely surprising that it’s more subdued, particularly in light of the political and economic uncertainty. While I’ve personally noted a degree of caution from some of the organisations we work with, only 5% of those surveyed predict any decrease in activity levels. Other businesses we have spoken to have suggested that confidence is stemming from long-term investment and continued corporate finance activity in many UK regions. This creates confidence and, more importantly, sustained demand for talent.

Dissatisfaction with salaries threatening retention

We also discovered that over the last year, salaries increased for accountancy and finance professionals, albeit slightly below the UK average. Despite the increase, however, many finance employees (54%) are becoming dissatisfied with their salaries, and this presents a potential risk to retention as rival employers are offering higher sums or different benefits packages to attract skilled professionals.

There are other means to help mitigate the threat to employee retention besides unrealistically raising salaries, however. Many candidates we speak to place a lot of value on their work-life balance, to the degree that 28% consider it to be the single most important factor while considering a new role. We recommend that employers capitalise on this as part of their retention strategies and consider offering options like flexible working, which a significant 32% of employees said they would appreciate as part of a benefits package.

Areas of key demand

From discussions with candidates and hiring managers, we have found that professionals with niche skills are in particular demand, and have been able to command above average salary increases. Payroll for example has seen the highest pay inflation within the accountancy and finance sector, further elevated as some SME organisations we work with have been bringing this function back in-house and employing their own payroll professionals rather than outsourcing.

Likewise, there is also a growing need for experienced audit, risk and compliance professionals as organisations look to mitigate the risks to reputational damage carried by the proliferation of business challenges including but not limited to cyber-crime, technology breaches and online media. As you may expect, salaries in this area have increased in line with demand.

We also continue to see continued demand to hire talented credit controllers and part and newly qualified accountants and expect this to continue in 2018.

The growing demand for talented candidates in these areas would be excellent news for many professionals, but concerns around job security prompted by the uncertainty of Brexit have resulted in a greater reluctance for employees to leave their current roles. We are finding that this reluctance is compounding salary dissatisfaction and putting pressure on employers to increase their salary offers in order to attract new staff away from their current roles.

It’s important in these complex economic conditions that your employees feel secure in their career. While many are concerned about job security, higher salary offers from other employers may be enough to tempt them away, particularly if other elements, such as their work-life balance, are less than satisfactory.

For more advice and insights into the findings of the Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018 guide, and to hear our recommendations, join me on the Hays Accountancy & Finance webinar on Monday 11 December.

If you are looking for support with your recruitment needs in this field, please contact your local office.


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