Charities and not-for-profit
The economic downturn has challenged the charities and not-for-profit sector. Some
organisations have seen their government funding cut and experienced significant falls
in the corporate and voluntary donations that they get.
Initially, the sector responded by applying recruitment freezes but business-as-usual
conditions have slowly returned and hiring has now picked up. Employers have exacting
criteria for candidates and will often merge two jobs into one. For example, they will
recruit a single director of resources instead of separate finance and operations directors.
Recruitment processes are rigorous and can entail panel interviews, presentations and skills/
While previous experience of the sector can be an advantage, there are also some interesting
openings for finance professionals with private-sector experience who want to move into
charities and not-for-profit. Most employers are looking for candidates with sound commercial
acumen who are able to engage with others and have good system skills that will help the
organisation to improve its planning processes.
It is crucial that staff development remains a priority for employers in the charities and not-
for-profit sector. Given that material benefits are being squeezed and job security eroded,
employees should feel that they are growing their skills and enjoying new opportunities.
Hiring into both temporary and permanent roles is likely to stay steady for the remainder
of this year and into 2014. Demand for part-time staff has increased due to the general
squeeze on budgets.
Central and local government
Government spending cuts implemented since 2010 have reduced hiring in central
and local government. Recently, however, some central government departments have
needed to replace finance professionals who have moved on in search of more pay or
Redundancies are still taking place in local government as bodies rationalise services,
merge departments and outsource activities. Meanwhile, there is fall-out from restructuring
programmes that resulted in bodies losing skilled people that they should have kept.
Although use of interim staff is limited, some local authorities are hiring senior-level
contractors to help them develop structures and processes.
Organisational change is a permanent theme of the social housing sector, where the focus has
been on saving money and driving efficiency.
While candidates with experience of the sector are always attractive to employers, individuals
with a background in private-sector housing also have an advantage. Many organisations
are working in joint ventures with independent developers to build new social and private-
rental sector housing, creating particular demand for development accountants.
Additionally, investment in IT systems means that systems accountants are sought after.
As housing associations continue to expand their services, find new and different ways
of supplying affordable homes and take the lead in regeneration projects, they will look to
recruit talented finance professionals on both a permanent and a temporary basis.
In April 2013, the NHS in England was reorganised in arguably the biggest shake-up
of the service since its foundation. This has created exciting opportunities for finance
professionals at all levels due to the emergence of three key organisation types: clinical
commissioning groups (CCGs), commissioning support units (CSUs) and NHS England. The
212 GP-led CCGs have replaced 152 primary care trusts (PCTs), while the CSUs will provide
commissioning and support services – such as finance and HR – to the CCGs and other
NHS bodies. All the organisations will share a common IT platform known as the Integrated
Single Financial Environment (ISFE).
Inevitably, the need for health service expertise means that many finance professionals who
previously worked for the PCTs have moved to the new organisations, sometimes in higher-
graded roles. Besides having responsibility for setting up their new organisation and its
related structures and processes, they are also charged with closing down their legacy
organisation. The workload associated with this has led to a huge increase in interim staff
over the past 18 months and there has been significant demand for finance professionals
able to act as backfill for permanent employees who are seconded onto projects that involve
setting up or closing organisations. Across all levels of finance, demand exists for individuals
with specialist skills including financial management and reporting, financial modelling,
commissioning, contract management, payment by results, bid writing, pricing and
tenders. Although the majority of CCGs are smaller in size than their predecessor PCTs,
they do outnumber them. This, coupled with the creation of NHS England and the
CSUs, has resulted in an expanded senior finance community. The limited number of
accountants with health expertise means that many have benefited from good promotions
and pay rises although, in some cases, employers risk promoting candidates beyond
their abilities. Suitable candidates to fill the roles of CFO and deputy CFO (known as
head of finance in some organisations) are in particularly short supply, both on an interim
and permanent basis. The CSUs can recruit from a potentially wider pool of candidates
since they often seek individuals with private-sector experience, particularly a background in
outsourcing or private-public partnerships.
Once the changes within the NHS have become fully embedded and vacancies filled,
the hiring market for finance professionals is likely to reduce, although demand will
remain for contractors to support permanent staff members who are struggling with the
enhanced responsibilities of their new roles.