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Regional Outlook - East of England

December 2013

Overview

Accountants with between two and four years’ experience are sought after for positions in both commerce and industry and the public sector. Overall, the employment market in the East of England is more buoyant than it has been for some time.

Commerce and industry

Hiring has picked up in the East of England compared with this time last year. There is a noticeable increase in activity, particularly in the construction, engineering and manufacturing sectors, which is generating demand for finance professionals. Many roles are coming up throughout Essex and in the Watford, Ipswich and Norwich areas with SME’s driving much of the recruitment.

Employers are keen to secure accountants with between two and four years’ post-qualification experience to fill financial accountant and management accountant positions that pay between £40,000 and £50,000. They prefer candidates who are commercially astute and have experience of process improvement. Treasury knowledge can also be an advantage in some roles. Demand for candidates that fit these criteria is outstripping supply however, which is likely to result in a buoyant market for temporary staff. At the most senior end of the market, appetite for finance directors remains suppressed.

Credit control team leaders are sought after as employers focus on cash flow and ensuring that their customers pay. Payroll supervisors with around three years’ experience are also in high demand due to the Real Time Information Initiative and the roll-out of pension auto enrolment. With suitable candidates in short supply, employers will probably turn to temporary workers to fill the gaps.

Employers value personality, culture fit and strong communication and interpersonal skills. Despite the imbalance between supply and demand in some parts of the market, they have high expectations of candidates and will often demand an exact skills match. This will inevitably narrow the field they can select from so they should try to be more flexible and realistic.

The return of business confidence means that candidates are starting to look for new opportunities, which is creating vacancies, while organisations of all sizes are more open to recruitment. Salaries have not moved significantly yet, although this could change over the next six months. Some uncertainty remains despite the improving economic outlook, but it is still likely that the job market will continue to pick up pace over the coming months.

Practice

Public practice in the East of England has seen some uplift in recruitment activity in recent months although this is less pronounced than in commerce and industry. Demand for good candidates remains greater than supply due to the perennial issue of accountants choosing to move into industry soon after they qualify. For this reason, there are many roles available for audit seniors and supervisors.

Public sector

Plenty of opportunities exist for finance professionals within the public sector in the East of England. The National Health Service (NHS) and education sector are hiring, as are charities and other not-for-profit organisations such as housing associations. Most of the roles that are advertised are aimed at accountants with between two and four years’ post-qualification experience with management accountants and analysts particularly sought after. Demand for finance professionals to work in the public sector is likely to stay strong for the foreseeable future.

Summary

Greater activity within commerce and industry and the public sector is creating plenty of opportunities for mid-career finance professionals in the East of England. The imbalance in candidate supply and demand may lead to moderate wage inflation over the medium term.