Accounting and finance sector - skills shortage now critical

• Increased business opportunities for accounting firms and banks’ heavy investment in compliance fuel surge in demand for candidates
• As demand intensifies the professional staffing sector faces a critical people crisis

Permanent placements and vacancies across the professional staffing sector continue to climb with four months of consecutive growth according to the latest trends report from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), which analyses vacancies and placements across the UK staffing sector. The year on year decline rate has receded further for placements and vacancies, and month on month placements have risen once again by 1.5%.

Compliance and accounting roles surge but demand outstrips supply

APSCo’s data shows a 12% increase in placements compared to the same time last year. Online statistics also reveal that there was a 19% year on year increase in accounting and finance vacancies advertised in August and September. This can be attributed in part to banks bolstering their compliance functions in recent months, a trend reflected in HSBC’s recent announcement that it

has hired 3,000 compliance staff this year alone in a move to combat financial crime and regulatory requirements.

However with such vast numbers of staff required, contract and interim professionals have been plugging this gap as banks rush to meet regulatory deadlines. This is backed up by APSCo member, Venn Group’s, recent research which shows that after months of contraction the financial services contract and interim market is beginning to recover with vacancies increasing 3.4% over the last quarter.

Recent data from the CBI also suggests that in the last quarter accountancy companies saw their biggest increase in business volumes since 2007 which has fuelled a surge in roles for accounting professionals as firms look to meet the growing demands of their client base.

On-going vacancy growth across professional staffing sector
Despite the accounting & finance sectors experiencing the most impressive growth in the past few months, other sectors are also faring well. APSCo notes online permanent vacancy growth in the property and construction (49%), marketing (28%), and the legal sectors (14%) compared to the same time last year which is fuelling further skills shortages in certain areas.

According to the recent ‘APSCo Deloitte UK Recruitment Index’ – which measures key financial and operational metrics of UK staffing companies – the marketing sector is faring worst from this brain drain. The research reveals that there are far more vacancies than available talent which is explained, in part, by the fact that many organisations are putting more emphasis on their digital strategies and there appears to be fewer candidates with the marketing discipline running alongside. Consequently as businesses continue to invest in digital marketing to drive growth, there are fewer available candidates with the desired niche skill sets.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo comments:

“With the economy continuing to show signs of stability, the skills shortage issue is beginning to have a real impact on businesses’ ability to increase headcount to facilitate growth. Employers need to act now if they are to avoid being caught out by any future upturn”.

John Nurthen, Executive Director International Development for Staffing Industry Analysts comments:

“The economic crisis and regulatory scandals may have put a dent in some financial careers but as one door shuts another opens. It’s hardly surprising that compliance headcount in the City should be accelerating in the current climate particularly in areas such as money laundering, financial compliance, and operation risk and control. Beyond accounting expertise, the skills required for these important and varied roles can be quite broad including economic, legal, communication, language and organisational ability.”

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