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Sector Insight - Public Practice

March 2014

A variety of interesting roles are coming up in practice as the economic recovery gathers pace. In particular, exciting opportunities in corporate finance and other advisory service lines.

Improved business conditions have sparked a surge of hiring activity in public practice. Firms of all sizes are recruiting, with the Big 4 leading the way.

A brightened economic outlook has resulted in firms investing in advisory roles in areas such as cash flow reporting, corporate finance,corporate recovery, modelling, transaction services and valuations. This opens up a multitude of interesting opportunities for candidates; corporate finance positions, in particular, are viewed as desirable due to their strong commercial focus. At Hays, we also see firms growing their wealth management practices that advise high net-worth individuals and affluent ex-pats who have come to the UK from emerging markets such as China and Russia. Meanwhile, rising demand for candidates to fill advisory roles has meant that firms’ audit service lines are losing key personnel, creating vacancies in audit at all levels.

The Big 4 are adding to their headcount in London and other key industrial centres such as Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Newcastle. They are predominantly hiring candidates from top 10 and top 20 firms who have the skills and experience to adapt seamlessly to life at the top of the profession. Following some high-profile mergers, the mid-tier firms underwent a period of consolidation in 2013, but they are now hiring again. Public practice is also competing for candidates who are considering moves to financial services and commerce and industry, which both prize the technical expertise that practice candidates bring.

The role of the partner as a fee generator has been heightened by the recession, so partners are under pressure to retain clients, bolster their firm’s position in the marketplace, and boost the bottom line.

The market for interim accountants in public practice has picked up pace, particularly as firms look to cover the busy audit season. They realise the benefits of employing skilled professionals who can work to a high standard throughout a specified period. At Hays, we predict that 2014 will bring an increase in international candidates who come to the UK temporarily or on working holiday visas. Candidates who have a good working knowledge of IFRS are especially marketable.

Salaries are expected to rise during 2014, at a rate slightly above inflation. The Big 4 usually offer the highest salaries, although other firms may pay above market rate to secure the right person. Candidates are competing fiercely for the most sought-after roles but the best individuals can attract offers from several firms. These professionals are likely to have strong business-development and cross-selling skills alongside a solid academic background and technical competence. Employers are increasingly using counteroffers and bonus schemes as ways to retain valued staff. Overall, the market in practice is set to be busy throughout 2014 and good candidates will have plenty of options.

To find out more about opportunities in public practice, visit our website or contact Kathryn Swan on 0203 465 0137