Behind the numbers: name your price

There’s no shortage of anecdotal evidence to suggest we should be bleak,
swapping champagne for migraines.

IFRS and Sarbox, the twin titans that have driven up workloads, billings and
many accountants to distraction, have run their course – in a transitional sense
at least. HMRC is proving relentless in its campaign to end tax avoidance by
2008, and seeking to choke off a valuable pipeline of work for firms of all
shapes and sizes in the process.

Meanwhile economic uncertainty has sapped the willingness of corporates to
engage in the sort of big consulting projects that have kept advisers in sports
cars for many years.

Scratch below the surface, though, and there are fewer causes for worry.

Stats from the States that emerged in the dying days of January hint that the
headlines don’t coincide with reality for most accountants.

According to a panel of 9,000 working adults, confidence among accounting and
finance workers in the economy and their personal employment situation rose in
the fourth quarter of 2006. The Accounting and Finance Employee Confidence Index
increased 2.2 points to 64.6 compared with a US-wide index of 59.6.

There was further cause for encouragement in the detail of the results. Some
71% of accounting and finance workers reported confidence in the future of their
employer, compared with 69% in the third quarter.

Underpinning it all is that old issue, the war for talent. Demand for
accounting and finance workers on both sides of the Atlantic continues to
outstrip the supply. It’s hard to see that changing any time soon. Plenty of
accountants are qualifying – this month the ICAEW had its biggest exam sitting
for 25 years – but there are still more positions than talented recently
qualifieds available.

Only the creation of a truly global market for accountants could change this.
Last November, 27,565 students sat the Institute of Chartered Accountants of
India’s exams – five times the number that sat the most recent ICAEW exams.

But any resultant change is years if not decades away. IFRS continues to
splutter, while technology can appear to frustrate as often as it enables.

So if you’re a recent qualifier, with a good degree and enough of the right
kind of work experience under your belt, keep a pen to hand. For 2007 at least,
you can write your own cheque.

Damian Wild is editor in chief of Accountancy Age

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