Working overseas: the best places for your skills

IT IS that time of year again. A cold snap has hit the UK, the economic outlook remains gloomy, and reality show ‘stars’ are bombarding the pop charts and book bestseller lists.

Fancy a change of scene? Despite the global economic downturn, the accountancy jobs market in many countries is either buoyant or steady, whether it is long-haul favourites such as Australia and New Zealand, or emerging economic powers such as China and Dubai.

Meanwhile, the move towards global accounting rules is further improving the job prospects of UK accountants by creating a common language for financial reporting.

Going overseas could boost your pay significantly. Average salaries for those working outside the UK are 45% higher at £107,700 (UK £74,200) and bonuses are more than double those in the UK at £23,400, according to a survey by the ICAEW earlier this year.

The highest average salaries for chartered accountants are in the Middle East (£128,600), although salaries are likely to include living and other allowances.

In the wake of the global economic downturn, accountants with risk management are highly sought after, as is experience in planning, forecasting and budgeting.

China expands
China, the engine of the global economy, is one obvious destination for ambitious accountants.

China’s economy is predicted to grow by 10% in 2010, and it needs lots of qualified accountants to help it manage its phenomenal expansion.
Demand for accountants is being driven by Chinese companies that want to list in the UK and require UK finance directors and accountants to help them make a smooth launch in a new market, and also by Western companies that are moving into China.

Recruitment experts say that employers are looking for candidates with experience in financial reporting, commercial and financial analysis.

Dubai in recovery
Closer to home, there are also job opportunities in Dubai, one of seven United Arab Emirates in the Middle East. In November last year, Dubai shocked global financial markets when one of its largest companies asked for a six-month standstill on its debt payments, but there are signs that the economy is recovering.

UK accountants interested in Dubai’s year-round sun and tax-free salaries still have plenty of opportunities. However, competition is getting tougher as the UAE becomes a business hub for the Middle East.

Candidates with experience in the consumer goods industry are at an advantage, as are qualified treasurers, and people with experience in financial reporting and analysis.

But skills and experience may not be enough to clinch the job. Getting your face known is important. James Sayer, associate director for the Middle East at recruitment company Robert Half, advises accountants who are interested in working in Dubai to visit for a short holiday and use their time to meet recruitment consultants and arrange interviews.

Fierce Antipodean battles
In the more established accountancy markets, Australia and New Zealand remain popular locations for UK chartered accountants. Recruitment experts say there are good opportunities for UK chartered accountants in the former, but caution that the strong Australian economy and dollar means that competition is fierce.

sydneyThe financial services sector may offer a way in. Recruiters say that the major Australian banks are among the companies recruiting UK chartered accountants, due to an increase in financial reporting requirements.

Neighbouring New Zealand is also worth considering for accounting jobs.
Demand for UK chartered accountants is set to increase over the next year, thanks to a shortage of good newly qualified accountants.

Experts advise UK chartered accountants to move to New Zealand first and then look for a job, because clients are usually reluctant to offer a UK candidate a job without interviewing them in person.

Employers are particularly interested in accountants with experience in technical accounting and group reporting. There is also growing demand for accountants with good business acumen – specifically, business analysts, commercial managers and management accountants.

Taking a job overseas often used to be seen as a “hardship posting” (fun if you are single and in your twenties, but a sideways or backwards career move if you are more senior). But this negative image is changing. As the market becomes more globalised, overseas stints are now seen as a
smart way to advance your career – and your salary. ?


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