20 years ago, when I started my career in accountancy and finance recruitment the use of temporary or interim accountancy and finance professionals would typically peak towards the end of the financial year – both in terms of tax year-end and also the company’s financial year-end. However, due to increasing automation the reasons for using finance temps and interims have changed, albeit requirements for this year-end support still exists in many companies.
Due to the increasing amount of legislation and regulation regularly affecting accountancy and finance functions, the demand for temps remains strong.
Whether a department doesn’t have the skills required or simply needs an extra pair of hands, temps are frequently required to help implement these high-level financial reporting changes or free up existing staff to deliver the change whilst the temp keeps the day to day work going. This of course also enables organisations to up-skill existing staff and offer personal development in projects and broader skills, often resulting in better retention of talent.
Similarly, during large-scale projects such as mergers, acquisitions or disposals, and system implementations, qualified accountancy temps may prove invaluable. They may not necessarily be needed to head the projects themselves, but rather to backfill line management or day to day jobs in order for a current manager with a deeper understanding of the business to spearhead this change.
Fluctuations in the wider economic landscape also impact the need for finance temps. Following a period of some uncertainty leading up to and after the EU referendum, there has been a sustained period of greater confidence in corporate finance, manifesting in consistent M&A activity. However, as is often the case during periods of organisational change, the template for how a business will be structured or indeed owned may change quickly. As such, there is often a need to hire senior finance professionals on a short-term basis in order to ensure that certain roles will continue to exist in the future, and, if so, to help define their remits.
However, whilst there has been renewed confidence in corporate finance, an environment of change continues in the public sector, and cost-saving clearly remains a high priority. As a result, temporary accountancy and finance professionals are often on the front line, helping to identify and drive through these cost savings during transformation projects.
When it comes to hiring accountancy and finance temps, we typically advocate three pieces of advice that may differ somewhat from what you expected:
If you are planning to implement a new system such as ERP software or indeed any major systems change, you may consider hiring a specialist implementation interim, but in doing this you run the risk that they take this knowledge with them when they leave. Instead, you should consider putting a valued member of your current management team on this project, and backfill line management roles.
Not only will your current employee likely relish the opportunity to take on a new challenge, thereby developing their skills and helping ensure talent retention, but it will also ensure a longer-term legacy of skills in this area, rather than the knowledge base walking out of the door at the end of the project.
Thanks to fierce competition for interim and contract accountancy and finance professionals, hiring temps can no longer be seen as a knee jerk reaction. If you leave it too late, you will not be able to secure top talent for your roles. For example, if you are looking to reach certain cash collection targets in time for your end of the financial year, look at what these targets are early, and carefully map out your resources and current capabilities. For example, our own team at Hays would typically meet in January each year to review the cash targets and plan what resources are required for a successful June year-end. By bringing the additional resource on board in February or March this would enable any temp hire to collect cash in time and therefore add the value to your business that you are actually paying for!
Furthermore, by anticipating the need for a temp in advance, you are more likely to hire the best. By talking to an expert finance recruiter, you will be able to ascertain how early you should start looking for a particular skillset – and remember, there is no cost to a conversation, but there is if you don’t hit your targets.
When it comes to hiring specialist accountancy temps, one more message is imperative: act quickly. Unless for a very senior role, be sure not to follow your usual recruitment process such as holding multiple interviews and assessments and having long waiting times before selecting a candidate.
Instead, work to a fast well organised turnaround model. Rely on a recruiter to find established, trusted and qualified candidates, and do not hold more than one interview, if you interview at all. Once you find the right person, reach out to them immediately. The competition for talent is acute in this field, and if you do not move fast you will most likely lose your candidate – and at a time when you may need skilled support the most.
For more information or to discuss your temporary employment needs in this field, please contact your local consultant.
Karen is a Director and recruiting expert at Hays Accountancy & Finance. She provides strategic leadership to a team of 400 accountancy and finance recruitment professionals across 100 UK offices. With 20 years of finance recruitment experience, Karen has a track record of recruiting top finance talent for businesses across a range of industry sectors, and is a trusted industry voice on career planning and market insights.
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