Getting ahead in commerce and industry finance jobs

Commerce and industry accounting professionals are considering their next moves carefully, sacrificing salary for progression, while demand for interim professionals continues. Helen Firth, C&I manager at Morgan McKinley analyses the latest recruitment trends

Recruitment of contract and interim professionals has been particularly significant across retail, property and media in London. Retail has seen this surge because organisations are calling on more flexible resources amid the uncertain market as well as feeling the struggles of trying to hire high calibre permanent talent.

Property is buoyant at the moment as there is a greater level of investment in the construction space and a number of M&A projects being delivered. Media is consistently a strong sector in London as businesses are emphasising growth in a difficult market and pushing their investment into marketing and wider media initiatives.

The Thames Valley area has seen significant recruitment of junior roles, either technical finance and accounting roles or commercial positions.

Many financial services professionals who have been working in London services are now looking at commerce and industry outside London.

Attracting and retaining

Over recent years, employers have been placing an ever-increasing focus on employee engagement and retention of staff. Noticeable ways that employees have been tempted to stay at their current organisation include clear career progression with plenty of opportunities to move internally, flexible working arrangements such as working from home and part-time offerings, as well as creating a pleasant working environment and culture.

Work-life balance is definitely a winning formula for retention outside London. Offering this is a necessity if organisations want to retain their high calibre talent. These are all often considered above pay rises and some candidates have taken pay cuts to achieve a better balance.

Alongside the above, offering study leave and sponsorship for CIMA and ACCA qualifications is a sure-fire way of attracting professionals.

How to succeed

In terms of skills that contribute to a successful accounting career in commerce and industry, strong analytical experience, advanced Excel knowledge and an ability to display ownership or taking accountability of projects are all beneficial. Being proactive, adaptable to change and confident in presenting to senior leaders, as well as being able to challenge them is a desirable trait to possess.

ACA- or CIMA-qualified accountants are always required by large companies, particularly in the regions, so qualifying in either of these is hugely beneficial.

Most professionals are looking at roles in totality, rather than purely for salary nowadays. For example, it’s common to move to a role with the same remuneration, or even slightly less, if it means more mentally stimulating work or if it offers a greater chance of future progression - candidates are increasingly considering their career prospects in every move they make.

In the interim

In the contract and interim market, the start of 2019 saw a lot of technical roles and group finance positions at all levels from junior to senior finance. Plenty of support has been required around the year end and there has also been a last-minute rush to implement new accounting standards.

Interim finance roles have been quite broad in terms of skills now within commerce and industry, particularly for effective communicators. The market is still largely dictated by rates; candidates who choose to be interim do so for the day rate. This has been a challenge as the market has seen a marked uplift in salaries for fixed term contracts.

In the Thames Valley and Middlesex areas, hiring has been quite buoyant. A number of clients are looking to recruit interim candidates in the finance market while they find the perfect permanent employee. Brexit has not really come up in regional recruitment briefings, organisations still seem happy to recruit.

Across London, Brexit did not play a huge role in the levels of roles in January or February, but many roles have been shelved currently until there is more clarity. New systems implementations have been high on the agenda, driving the need for interim candidates to backfill roles, while internal workforces have been moved on to those contracts. Merger and acquisition (M&A) activity within the property space, in particular, has seen huge requirements for interim support while integrations bed down.

About the author

Helen Firth is commerce & industry manager at Morgan McKinley

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