UK 2023 finance recruitment outlook: skills shortage pushes up salaries
Usually economic scenarios such as the one we are facing in the UK do not make for a confidence-inducing recruitment outlook. But if you’re a finance professional in the UK, 2023 promises to be another year in which the candidate is in driving the seat.
This signals another period of challenges for employers, though hiring plans show no signs of slowing down, says Karen Young, director of Hays and responsible for its accountancy and finance division. ‘Over 60% of those hiring accountancy and finance professionals plan to recruit staff in the next 12 months, which is a slight increase from 60% last year’, says Young.
With 90% of employers experiencing skills shortages, what has come to define finance recruitment for some years shows little sign of abating. This is affecting business productivity and growth, it’s damaging product quality and customer service, it’s delaying projects and holding back much-needed transformations.
All this will only make competition for the right talent so much more of a challenge. Indeed, according to Robert Half research, depicted in AB’s graphics, 26% of CFOs are planning to add new positions, while 89% view talent attraction as a ‘concern’, putting the candidate in a strong position to negotiate.
New roles, growing salaries
As companies seek to retain valued staff or attract the elusive ‘right fit’ candidate, accounting and finance salaries are expected to continue rising in 2023, after growing by an average 6.5% in 2022 – though a caveat is that inflation, depending on how it plays out, always has the capacity to somewhat negate increases.
Nevertheless, promising for the outlook is that 89% of employers increased their accounting and finance salaries last year and 86% foresee raising them even further in the year ahead, according to Hays. (Toggle across the graphic displaying salaries for different levels of finance professional in this AB article.)
The biggest growth in salaries has been at the junior and mid-level, says Bex Pearce, associate director, accounting and finance at Morgan McKinley. ‘This is also often the most competitive levels to recruit at, with candidates receiving in excess of a 30-40% uplift on basic salary.’
According to Hays, recently qualified accountants with 0–2 years’ post-qualified experience (PQE) received the fourth highest pay rise. Other roles that received the highest increases include financial director, finance manager and accountant (2–4 years’ PQE).
Scott Grundy, senior manager, accounting & finance and front office at Morgan McKinley, notes the influx of new roles being created in large investment banks and asset managers, as well as medium-sized and smaller businesses, and fintech startups.
In previous years – after the Brexit vote (2017–19), for example – we saw several functions, including product control and some fund accounting teams, being offshored. This was not the case in 2022 and has certainly not been communicated as a plan of action for 2023.
‘The salaries of newly qualified accountants from practice increased by 18% in 2022, which has had a knock-on effect for all other more senior roles, so it was certainly a good year to be an accountant who decided to move jobs,’ says Grundy. ‘Also in huge demand are fund accountants, product controllers, FP&A candidates and senior finance leaders at financial controller and finance director level.’
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But it’s not just about salaries. Businesses are increasingly competing in the ‘bells and whistles’ department, trying to home in on what candidates and employees really want.
A top priority is work-life balance, according to Hays, with 41% rating it second only to salary in importance (see AB article Salary isn’t the happiness key). One way to achieve this is through hybrid working, says Young, a trend we will continue to see in the year ahead.
‘Over half of accountancy and finance professionals (59%) intend to find a role that is more of a mix of hybrid working. A flexible hybrid approach, where employees have a say in how often they go to the office and when these days take place, proves even more appealing. We can expect to see many organisations adopting this flexibility over the next 12 months.’
Importance of hybrid working
Hybrid working is the most important recruitment tool beside salary, according to Robert Half. CFOs expect hybrid working to be part of their policy for the foreseeable future – however, some are keen to have employees back in the office full-time.
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Other crucial benefits are 28-plus days of paid annual leave; health insurance or private medical cover; pension provision above the legal minimum; and the prospect of career development.
Hays’ research also found that 83% of professionals believe one of the most important considerations when searching for a new job is whether an organisation has a strong sense of purpose. ‘Top accountancy and finance talent will continue to look for principles and sustainable objectives in their next role,’ says Young.
‘Financial modelling, business partnering and analytical skills continue to be in demand, ensuring that the human side of finance has the ability to drive performance and the reputation of the finance function in the organisation,’ says Pearce.
‘It’s more critical than ever that finance drives efficiencies and the effectiveness of the business, and continues to be at the heart of decision making.’ ‘Communication and interpersonal skills are the most sought after by employers’
Furthermore, candidates with technical and commercial accounting skills remain in demand, adds Grundy, ‘while technology experience (implementations and transformation experience) seems to be a real plus for some senior commercial roles’.
And, finally, with productivity taking a hit due to the skills shortages, employers are also searching for specific yet transferable soft skills, says Young. ‘Communication and interpersonal skills are the most sought after by employers in the sector, including an ability to learn, flexibility and adaptability, and coordinating with others.’
Follow these links to see all the jobs that Hays and Robert Half are currently advertising on ACCA Careers in the UK