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Upturn in Job Market Could see Accountants Leaving UK

UK : 24 September 2010

As recruitment begins to open up after a long, dull period, UK firms may see a mass of employees leave.

UK accountants are relieved to have held onto their jobs, but they are also tired of the staleness and tight conditions of the recent recession.

Research claims that about 50 percent of those accountants are actively looking for new positions.  Eighty percent of those are considering working abroad, leaving the UK firms empty and without a large collection of talent.

The reasons for leaving are apparent – even though companies fought to hang onto a full staff during the economic slump, some were inevitably let go.  That left the remaining staff working extra hard.

Also, many are joining the exodus because of a thaw in recruitment policies and the opening up of more opportunities across the globe.

Almost half of all 606 surveyed in the accounting field are actively searching for different positions.  That figure is expected to climb up to an extraordinary 75 per cent in the next six months to a year.

In the past and at any given time only 33 percent of accountants were looking for another job.

Director Max Williamson of careersinaudit, the firm that completed the research, noted that internal auditors at the senior level and audit managers were stuck in fierce competition with each other.  Should the recession not have come, over the past two years those employees would have enjoyed a promotion and would now be heading up their department or even be a partner.  With the UK and portions of Europe pulling out of a recession professional accounting employees are looking to catch up on their careers.

The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) has a role in accountants broadening their prospects internationally.  In the United States, listed businesses are beginning to phase out of GAAP reporting and aligning their practices with the IFRS.  This change means that accountants who have experience in this global system have more opportunities.

IFRS has gained in popularity around the globe.  European nations such as Italy, Germany, France and the UK have adopted the standard, even if only in certain sectors, since they were introduced in 2005.  Brazil and Australia are also using the IFRS.  Nations like India, Canada, Argentina and the United States are set to adopt the standards over the next three years.

Based on recent research, UK accountants are looking to Western Europe as their first choice and the Middle East a close runner up.  Even though each nation will adopt the IFRS with slight discrepancies, most experts know that UK accountants have an edge in markets adopting the new standards.

Not only are the financial qualifications in the UK recognized as being on the leading edge, but based on language considerations and taking into account the complexity of the working environment for UK accounting professionals, this group has great value to the international business world adopting the IFRS.

According to publication Accountancy Age, Clive Davis, director for Robert Half, a recruitment firm that specializes in the financial industry, noted that the adoption of the IFRS has added clarity to the industry and value to the “portable skills set” of trained professionals.  Dubai is leading the group of developing regions that are looking to draw UK accountants.

This data may scare UK employers, but taken into context, it is unlikely that all of those who have the desire to relocate will actually do so.

International businesses are more likely to promote internally or source out a local professional before they would bring in a new hire from abroad, according to Mark Freebain.  Freebain is a partner in Odgers Berndtson, a senior finance recruitment firm.  He stated that, as an example, UK businesses that have expanded into China may bring over a UK director of finance, but will more than likely locally recruit for the controller position.

Also, the high cost of switching companies and moving to another nation will dampen the resolve of many survey respondents.

Although the UK has higher tax rates and a climate with multiple seasons, employers can offer certain benefits designed to encourage professionals to stay in the nation.

Secondments can be introduced, should the business be large enough.  Flexible shifts and the ability to work from home are also heavy enticements.

It has been found that many accountants leave their positions because they do not feel encouraged or nurtured by the company.  According to results, 77 percent believe that their employer could have supported their careers more.

Sarah Churchman, employee engagement and diversity director at PwC, said that employers need to ensure their staff feels that they are a valued part of the business.

The sooner companies meet with employees to discuss how they can facilitate their career development, the more secure that business is.

Employers without the ability to offer promotions can still offer other development benefits like mentoring, advanced training opportunities and ability to try various work skills.

If a company wants to continue growing and come out of the recession strong, they should be sure they are not taking their employees for granted.  Business strategies are impossible to execute without the support of good staff.

Paul Holdsworth, Staff Writer, Gulf Jobs Market News
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