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UK – Accounting and finance skills shortage now critical

08 October 2013

Permanent placements and vacancies across the professional staffing sector continue to climb with four months of consecutive growth, according to the latest trends report from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), which analyses vacancies and placements across the UK staffing sector. The year-on-year decline rate has receded further for placements and vacancies, and month-on-month placements have risen once again by +1.5%. 

APSCo’s data shows a +12% increase in placements, compared with the same time last year.  Online statistics also reveal that there was a +19% year-on-year increase in accounting and finance vacancies advertised in August and September. This can be attributed in part to banks bolstering their compliance functions in recent months, a trend reflected in HSBC’s recent announcement that it has hired 3,000 compliance staff this year alone in a move to combat financial crime and regulatory requirements.

However, with such vast numbers of staff required, contract and interim professionals have been plugging this gap as banks rush to meet regulatory deadlines.  This is supported by APSCo member, Venn Group’s, recent research.  This shows that after months of contraction the financial services contract and interim market is beginning to recover with vacancies increasing +3.4% over the last quarter.

Recent data from the CBI also suggests that in the last quarter accountancy companies saw their biggest increase in business volumes since 2007, which has fuelled a surge in roles for accounting professionals, as firms look to meet the growing demands of their client base.

Despite the accounting & finance sectors experiencing the most impressive growth in the past few months, other sectors are also faring well. APSCo noted online permanent vacancy growth in the property and construction (+49%), marketing (+28%), and the legal sectors (+14%) compared with the same time last year, which is fuelling further skills shortages in certain areas.

According to the recent ‘APSCo Deloitte UK Recruitment Index’ the marketing sector is worst affected by this so-called ‘brain drain’. The research reveals that demand for talent outweighs the supply. Many organisations are putting more emphasis on their digital strategies, resulting in fewer available candidates with the desired niche skill sets.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo commented: “With the economy continuing to show signs of stability, the skills shortage issue is beginning to have a real impact on businesses’ ability to increase headcount to facilitate growth. Employers need to act now if they are to avoid being caught out by any future upturn.”

John Nurthen, Executive Director International Development for Staffing Industry Analysts commented: “The economic crisis and regulatory scandals may have put a dent in some financial careers but as one door shuts another opens. It’s hardly surprising that compliance headcount in the City should be accelerating in the current climate particularly in areas such as money laundering, financial compliance, and operation risk and control. Beyond accounting expertise, the skills required for these important and varied roles can be quite broad including economic, legal, communication, language and organisational ability.”

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