Big four firms are stepping up efforts to retain newly-qualified staff, but NQs are still leaving accounting firms in their droves for higher paid jobs in banking and commerce.
Financial recruitment firm Michael Page estimates that as many as 50% of newly qualifieds leave the profession within three years of qualifying, in a trend that threatens to further damage an industry already reeling from a prolonged skills shortage.
David Sproul, talent partner at Deloitte, said retaining newly qualifieds had always been a concern, but was becoming more important because of a lack of skills.
‘There is a sharp skills shortage, which has been made more acute with the big increase in regulatory and corporate governance compliance and the introduction of IFRS during the past 18 months,’ said Sproul.
Keith Dugdale, director of recruitment at KPMG, said keeping staff was a ‘hot issue’ given the shortage of skills coming in at graduate level, and that KPMG was exploring new strategies to retain recently qualified chartered accountants. ‘Competition for skills is fierce, which makes holding on to staff crucial,’ Dugdale said.
Chris Conner, a manager in the professional services recruitment arm of Michael Page, said qualifying as an accountant was often ‘a way of deferring the decision of what they (newly qualifieds) ultimately want to do’.
He added that a common reason for wanting to leave firms was that audit did not allow accountants to influence business directly in the way that working for a company full-time did.
Money is also a factor with the likes of Shell offering up to £60,000 a year for NQs. Sproul said staying in audit for longer than three years ‘enhanced’ an individual’s career prospects. He said a snapshot of FTSE100 CFOs would reveal that most had stayed on with their audit firms after qualifying.
‘We have always tried to get this message out there’, Sproul said, ‘but now we need to make that message heard more loudly.’
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