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Wednesday, 17th April 2024
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‘Inflation proof’ theory to be put to the test Back  
Despite the economic downturn, demand for accountancy skills is expected to remain strong, writes Feargal Mac Lochlainn.
This has certainly been an interesting 12 months in the financial recruitment industry. The theory that the accountant’s position is ‘inflation-proof’ (controlling spend when times are good, controlling costs when times are bad) shall certainly be tested over the next year as companies continue to consolidate.
While there remain interesting and challenging opportunities in all sectors, at levels similar to last year, there has been a subtle shifting of power from the candidate in the direction of the client. The recent economic slowdown and resultant redundancies have increased the pool of talent on the market, making for keener inter-candidate competition. The process itself is taking that little bit longer to complete as clients weigh up both the merits of all available talent with the financial implications of hiring in an environment of tighter financial constraints.
While many accountancy skills are industry-transferable, the key word of the last few months and for the foreseeable future is ‘experience’. This can either be sector specific experience or skill-set specific. Sectors that have been particularly buoyant at the moment include financial services/insurance /banking, construction/engineering and IT multinationals. Skills that are in demand include internal audit, compliance, risk, treasury, financial and business analysis. This is not to lose sight of the fact that company-cultural fit and qualifications are also crucial elements in the selection process.
Contrary to popular perception salary scales have not decreased during the year, and it is probably fairer to say that they have stagnated at the same level. The table below gives an indication of the average salaries currently being commanded across a number of finance disciplines.
Obviously there are a number of factors that have to be taken into account when calculating remuneration package, including size and location of the company, seniority of position, and sundries such as experience and qualifications. Some general observations based on Careers Register’s experiences this year include:
• A keener interest on the candidate side to look at the overall package rather than just base salary, particularly the security being offered by health and pension benefits.
• A continued practice on the client side of negotiating salaries to land the preferred candidate.
• Share options are no longer an attractive benefit proposition.
The future will bring similar challenges and opportunities to those that we have seen in the last twelve months. Candidates will generally be recruited based on proven ability to perform in a particular field. The more solid experience a candidate has to offer the more attractive a proposition they will be. Clients should be mindful that while recruiting for a specific need, using specific criteria (be it technical ability, formal qualification, years of experience etc.) they do not lose sight of the importance of getting the right personality fit for the company’s culture.
While the Enron, Worldcom and Allfirst fiascos have done nothing for the public perception of the accountancy profession, thankfully they are not quite at the level of traffic wardens or estate agents just yet, and we expect to provide our candidates and clients with plenty of opportunities over the coming year.

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