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Sector Insight - Newly Qualifieds

December 2013

Newly qualified accountants are in demand as the economy returns to health. Exciting opportunities abound and employers are competing for the best.

While the recruitment market for newly qualified accountants is always busy, it has picked up significantly over the past couple of years. As the economic recovery takes hold, employers are hiring newly qualifieds into financial accountant and business partnering roles in significant numbers. Hiring activity is greatest in the energy, insurance, professional services and property sectors. Newly qualifieds are perennially attractive to employers because they are perceived as being technically up to date and keen to learn.

While financial accounting is the more traditional route for newly qualifieds to go down, many are also moving into business partnering roles. Candidates are attracted by the analytical and commercial experience that they can gain in business partnering roles, where they will work closely with functions such as sales and marketing to manage costs and budgets. As a result, there is stiff competition for business-partnering roles and they tend to go to the highest-calibre candidates. It can be difficult for employers to distinguish between candidates who have a similar educational and training background so they are increasingly making use of online numeracy tests as a means of differentiation at the first stage of the hiring process.

Candidates who have trained in industry and studied for the CIMA qualification often have the edge when applying for business partnering roles but employers will also consider ACAs who have trained with a Big 4 firm and have strong academics. Those who possess good Excel skills including knowledge of macros and Visual Basic for Applications are at an advantage. Ultimately what matters most, however, is that candidates are confident, personable and able to stand up for themselves. Taking on a partnering role will entail working with a wide range of stakeholders within the business and dealing with some challenging situations.

Employers are competing fiercely for the best candidates and it is not unusual for some newly qualified accountants to get two or three offers. Although salaries for newly qualified accountants did not rise significantly in 2013, benefits have become more competitive. Bonuses, in particular, are important to candidates and newly qualifieds will factor in bonus potential when accepting a job offer. In London, base salaries for newly qualified accountants range from £45,000 to £50,000 while a bonus may add a further 8% to 20% on top. Elsewhere in the country, bases salaries tend to be slightly lower.

Temporary roles exist for candidates who want to leave practice but can’t find a suitable permanent position. These are usually financial accounting roles in organisations where an employer needs help at a busy time, such as quarter end, or to manage a backlog.

The vast majority of newly qualified accountants who leave public practice head for commerce and industry, but some also move into the public and not-for-profit sectors. In 2014, demand for newly qualified accountants should remain buoyant although the steady stream of candidates leaving practice will prevent a candidate shortage. As a result, salaries should just rise in line with inflation over the next 12 months.

To find out more about opportunities for newly qualified accountants, visit our website or contact Jane Knight on 0203 465 0012