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Sector Outlook - Newly Qualifieds in Scotland

April 2014

Newly qualified accountants are in high demand and short supply in the thriving Scottish cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

The oil and gas industry and financial services are driving demand for newly qualified accountants in Scotland. Hiring has picked up significantly over the past six months as economic confidence has returned.
The market is particularly busy in Aberdeen, which has its own micro-economy thanks to oil and gas and which has been less affected by the recession than other parts of the country. At Hays, we have also seen a surge in recruitment in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Dundee, which has fewer financial services businesses, has not seen the same spike in hiring, however.

While financial services is recruiting heavily to fill headcount vacancies that were left unfilled during the economic downturn, accountants who are newly qualified or have up to three years’ post qualification experience (PQE) are sought after by a wide range of employers. Manufacturing, retail, professional services and not-for-profit organisations are all hiring.

Within commerce and industry and financial services, newly qualified accountants in Scotland were mainly being recruited into technical roles until the last quarter of 2013. But heightened expectations of growth in 2014 mean that companies are increasingly hiring management and commercial accountants, financial planning analysts and business partners instead. Whereas they were previously focused on statutory compliance and cost reduction, companies are now looking for accountants who can unearth valuable business information and insight to help senior management make informed decisions about the future.

Commercial accountants are used to assess potential investment opportunities, for example, in IT systems, product development and training. Accountants who have the CIMA qualification tend to be preferred for these roles because of their industry background. Meanwhile, chartered accountants are sought after for planning and analysis roles due the analytical expertise they have acquired in practice. In general, employers seek finance professionals who can couple technical and interpersonal skills, bring numbers to life, add value, and clearly communicate with stakeholders across the wider business. Few newly qualified accountants want an interim role so most positions are permanent.

Hiring has picked up in public practice as accountancy firms look to serve their clients and replace key personnel who have moved into commerce and industry. Auditors are in huge demand, particularly at the newly qualified to three years’ PQE level. Firms are also recruiting into corporate finance and their other advisory service lines.

There is less hiring of newly qualified accountants within the public sector since employers here tend to look for candidates who have built up some commercial experience since qualification.
Starting salaries for newly qualified accountants in Edinburgh and Glasgow are in the region of £35,000 to £38,000, rising to £40,000 in Aberdeen. Financial services employers are offering bonuses of between 15% and 20%, plus appealing benefits such as car allowances, discounted mortgage rates and pension schemes to attract the best talent.

Due to accountancy firms cutting back on training during the downturn, newly qualified accountants are now in short supply. As a result, many employers are making strong counter-offers in order to retain their best staff. At Hays, we predict that demand for newly qualified accountants – particularly to fill forward-looking, commercial roles – will intensify over the next six to 12 months, driving up salaries.