Accounting & Finance sector grows strongly, despite skills shortage

  • Matt Gascoigne
  • 10/09/2015
  • 15:35
  • Adecco Group

As part of our quarterly industry review, we engaged with clients up and down the UK to gauge their thoughts on the state of the industry and the results are fantastic; they paint a picture of a sector on the rise as we move through the second half of 2015 and into 2016.

I feel safe in saying that confidence is coursing through the industry; more than two-thirds of our clients (67.5%) expect business growth in 2015, with one in five (21.9%) believing the year is already surpassing their expectations. There is evidence of some regional bias as London based businesses were the least confident with 59% of senior managers expecting growth in 2015 compared to 75% in the midlands.

The statistics show that this confidence is not misplaced. Of the 43% of Badenoch & Clark’s clients increasing their overall workforce during the first half of 2015, over three-quarters said that their largest increase was in permanent hires and more than half (52.8%) cited improved market conditions as a reason for this increase. With strength in the permanent hiring market always a sign of long-term business confidence and more than four in five senior managers expecting to maintain or even increase this trend during the second half of 2015, we have good reason to be positive.

That is not to say that it has been plain sailing all year and we would caution against complacency. Business thrives on stability, and the accounting and finance market is no exception. The General Election in May, and the prospect of political instability that it threatened, meant that commercial markets briefly slowed down (particularly in the South of England) as companies collectively held their breath as the public went to the polls.

In the temporary market the initial increase in opportunity observed at the start of the year, stuttered in Q2 but confidence has returned since the election result was announced and all signs suggest that the remainder of the year and into 2016 will be a busy time for contractors.

There is, however, an elephant in the room that the market will have to address sooner rather than later: the lack of available, quality candidates. Almost half of our clients (48%) thought the lack of quality candidates would be a challenge when recruiting during the second half of 2015, and issue affecting both the interim/temporary and permanent markets. With one in four clients also citing a significant skills gap between the market and the talent pool strong retention and L&D strategies are crucial. If it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the skills required then it becomes an absolute necessity to coach, train and develop employees and crucial to hold on to them!

That said, the skills shortage is good news for some people, specifically those who possess the skills that recruiters are looking for, with FP & A and technical accounting skills at the forefront of demand. Competition for these candidates has become increasingly fierce as the recruitment market becomes increasingly candidate-led. Almost a third of clients are worried about high salary expectations in the market this year. Increased competition appears to be particularly front of mind for those in the South East. Those who possess the necessary skills are therefore seeing a strong increase in their market rate.

So what does our research tell us? It is clear that businesses looking to recruit have to change their behaviour in order to deal with an evolving market, or risk losing out. It is encouraging to see the growth in the accounting and finance recruitment market, fuelled by record numbers of people in work and stretching across every region of the UK. But I would advise recruiters to avoid complacency, and adapt their recruitment processes to recognise two key points: they are attempting to recruit from a limited pool, and their offer might not be the only one on the table.