At a glance
2018 is a good time to be looking for work in accounting and finance. A strong economy is fuelling an appetite for hiring across the country, says Andrew Brushfield, Victoria and Western Australia director at recruitment agency Robert Half.
“Accounting is a great industry to get into. It doesn’t matter if companies are reporting numbers that are red or black or big or small, they still have to report numbers. The good news is a lot of companies are seeing growth.”
INTHEBLACK spoke to three recruitment experts who highlighted the trends they are seeing for 2018.
Finance skills in demand
“There’s always a shortage of good accountants, both within the profession and in industry,” says Benjamin Jotkowitz, director at recruitment firm Benneaux.
So, what roles are in demand?
“Candidates with three to five years’ business services experience are hard to find,” he says. “In the audit space, it’s hard to find senior auditors and audit managers.”
“We’re seeing far greater demand for analytical and commercial accountants than ever before,” says Brushfield.
“Companies are looking to get more from their finance and accounting support. Typically, that ‘more’ is more commercial insight … bringing the back office and the front office together, being across pricing as well as commercial and operational trends.”
Many employers are offering these roles on a contract basis. “We’ve doubled the temp book in the last 12 months,” says John Meehan, associate director of financial services at Robert Walters. Temporary roles give smaller companies flexibility to manage their workforce and allow large companies to recruit without encountering issues with headcount.
“It’s easier to get sign-off for a contractor – it doesn’t affect the annual budget.”
The evolving CFO role
In 2018, CFOs are expected to do more than just finance.
“Clients are looking for all-rounders with breadth of experience – someone who can do a lot more,” says Jotkowitz.
A CFO’s territory now covers HR, IT and strategy.
“Organisations are looking for candidates to be more hands-on as well.”
CFOs need strong stakeholder skills encompassing leadership, communication and business partnering, says Meehan.
“When they’re hiring a CFO or head of financial, companies want someone who can drive revenue. They want someone who can help the company make more money, which wasn’t the case previously.”
Employers seeking IT skills
INTHEBLACK’s three experts all emphasised the importance of IT skills for accountants and finance professionals in 2018.
“Technical accounting skills are a given,” says Jotkowitz. Today, employers are increasingly looking for specific IT systems experience as organisations shift to cloud-based technology.
Employers want candidates with strong skills in data and modelling as well as Excel, says Meehan, who explains they want “someone who can look at big sets of data, pull reports that add value and present them to the business”.
“The line between accounting and technology is becoming more blurred,” says Brushfield. Candidates need strong IT skills to get the most out of CRM [customer relationship management] tools used by accounting functions and “provide the commercial insight that sales functions within organisations expect”.
Work-life balance for finance professionals
In 2018, work-life balance is a deal-breaker. Candidates prioritise employers who offer perks such as health and wellness programs, or the flexibility to start and leave early, and work from home.
“Companies are providing personal trainers on a weekly basis or an extra level of health checks, and information sessions on diet and exercise,” says Brushfield.
“There is recognition from most employers that they stand a better chance to retain their best staff if they’re offering work-life balance.”
Not all employers deliver on what they promise, however. “Many say they’re going to do a lot of things: offer work-life balance, or a job share, or a start early or a pick up the kids early,” says Jotkowitz. “But unfortunately, it doesn’t always turn into reality.”
Attracting millennial employees
The push for work-life balance comes largely from younger members of the workforce.
“Millennials are very much swayed by the softer stuff that companies offer: the work from home, the benefits, the book club or the sport club,” says Meehan. “The older generation doesn’t really care about that.”
This shift has meant recruiters have had to change the way they talk to candidates. “Now they want to know ‘what does the company offer, what are the benefits?’. It’s not even about money,” says Meehan, who doesn’t find millennials money-driven.
“It’s more the extra benefits the companies offer that they’re chasing.”
Jotkowitz says a typical millennial refrain is often “what’s in it for me?”
“They go shopping around for different jobs; sometimes there’s not a lot of loyalty. Those candidates tend to move every two to three years – you don’t see them hang around for five years plus,” he says.
“It’s not as if these candidates are unhappy in the job, it’s just that ‘I’ve done my two years, it’s time to move on’.”
This restlessness may be due in part to the younger generation’s motivating desire to do more interesting work.
“They want to meet the CEO or face off to the senior business team or deal with the sales teams,” says Meehan. “They want exposure to the business, rather than sitting in a corner producing reports.”