Upturn could see accountants leave UK in droves

While many accountants are relieved to still have their jobs many have had
enough sitting tight through the recession.

Half are actively searching for pastures new, according to recent research.
eight out of ten accountants are also thinking of taking jobs abroad, which
leave firms with a huge talent pool to fill.

So, why are they looking to move, where to, and how can firms fight to keep
Although firms battled to retain staff numbers during the recession, there were
inevitable cuts. Existing staff were worked hard.

The current potential exodus can be explained by firms lifting their
recruitment freeze and an increase in global opportunities.

Nearly half of the 606 accountants surveyed are actively looking for another
job. Over the next six to 12 months that figure is set to rise to an
unprecedented 75%.

Historically the average percentage, at any one time, for accountants
searching for a job is usually 33%.

Senior internal auditors and audit managers have been caught in a bottleneck,
said Max Williamson, director at careersinaudit which produced the research. If
the recession hadn’t taken place many would have expected to be promoted to head
of their department or selected for partnership over the last two years. As the
UK and some parts of Europe emerge from the recession, accountants are keen to
make up for lost time.

International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) is likely to have played a
part in the recent spike in international job interest. US listed companies are
phasing out reporting in US GAAP and adopting IFRS. Any accountant with IFRS
experience broadens their career prospects.

IFRS has been rolled out across various countries around the world. Since
2005. the UK, France, Brazil, Italy, Australia and Germany have already adopted
the reporting standard in some form, such as private sector only, public or
listed companies. Other countries such as Argentina, Canada, India and the US
are expected to adopt IFRS in the next three years.

The road to recovery

According to the research, accountants’ destination of choice is Western
Europe with the Middle East a close second. Although every country will adopt
the standards slightly differently, experts believe UK accountants will have the
edge in the IFRS jobs market.

UK financial qualifications are considered some of the best in the world –
add to that the complex markets our accountants operate in, language
considerations – and UK accountants become very attractive to other countries
looking to report using international standards.

“IFRS has made it easier to grasp accounting rules in other countries. It
adds to the portable skills set,” said Clive Davis, a director at financial
recruitment business Robert Half. Developing economies want to attract UK
accounting talent, and Dubai has proved a popular destination.

While the figure­s may seem frightening to UK employers, the likelihood of
everyone who is considering moving overseas following through with the idea is

Foreign companies will often promote someone internally or locally rather
than ship in someone new from abroad, said Mark Freebairn, partner in senior
finance recruitment business Odgers Berndtson. For example, some UK
organisations may launch an office in China and are likely to recruit a local
financial controller but bring in a UK finance director.
It is unlikely people will move from one company in the UK to an entirely new
business abroad. There is a massive cost associated with that for the employee.


Staying in the UK

The UK may not be able to guarantee fine weather and low tax rates but its
employers can at least compete on other aspects that could attract employees to
stay put.

A large enough business can introduce secondments. Also, introducing flexible
shifts such as working from home can help to entice staff to stay.

One of the main reasons accountants leave is because their employer failed to
encourage and nurture them, with 77% believing their company could have done
more to help develop their careers.

Making sure employees understand their value in the business is pivotal, said
Sarah Churchman, director of employee engagement and diversity at PwC.

Now is a good time to sit down with employees and figure out how they would
like to develop their career and how the firm could help.

Even if employers are unable to offer promotion opportunities they can
provide other types of development such as mentoring, access to training and
varying work skills said Williamson.

Business looking to grow and emerge from the recession must not take their
employees for granted. It is impossible to implement a business strategy if you
don’t have the right people.

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