Behind the numbers: follow the Dutch lead

damian wild

It’s not like there is suddenly a surfeit of accountants or that work is
drying up in the profession. Indeed there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to
suggest that the gap between supply and demand in recruitment is heading in one

But while it may be quiet in the UK, as recruiters scratch their heads and
plot how best to deal with their problem, don’t assume that’s the case
elsewhere. In Holland especially there are some tactics that UK firms may wish
to deploy here.

For some time now mid-tier firms there have sought to attract staff by
arguing that, unlike the Big Four, they can offer a decent work-life balance.

One mid-tier firm recently went further, taking a truck with a video wall on
the back around various Big Four offices. They urged employees to text or email
comments, which they then displayed on the big screen. It’s a tactic borrowed
from the States where the IT giants have loitered at each other’s user
conferences for years.

More interesting is a tactic employed recently by Grant Thornton. The firm
has launched a ‘new firm’, Beep Accountants complete with a website
( and videos viewed by almost 300 people on YouTube in the
last couple of months.

Beep, which describes itself as the ‘Big One’, has an inhouse divorce
service, free employee meals, provided they are taken at your desk. And it
boasts of the nine day working week it can offer those who join the firm.

It’s not until you get fairly deep into the site that the joke is revealed
and Grant Thornton’s name crops up. It’s an innovative and entertaining way of
attracting interest in the firm and of getting it talked about. UK firms and
business will have to think equally radically unless they want to start turning
work away or, worse, delivering it poorly.

Back in the spring, one recruiter warned that the number of available
accountants in London had fallen by over 5% in the first quarter of 2007, while
job numbers had actually risen by 13%. I’ve seen nothing to suggest that the
tide has turned.

Now recruiters will have to go back to the drawing board. What once seemed
cutting-edge – anyone buying a sandwich in London last summer would have torn
open a paper bag with a PwC logo on the side – now seems quaint. Full marks to
GT’s Dutch practice.

Damian Wild is editor-in-chief of Accountancy

Related reading

aidan-brennan kpmg
The Practitioner