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Accounting Recruitment during COVID-19

Zak Beer Market Insight, Accounting

As we head into another week in lock-down, Zak Beer, Associate Director Brewer Morris Australia, explores the ramifications of coronavirus on the accounting marketplace, and the evolving trends and the impacts upon accounting firms in Australia.

Zak talks about marketplace trends in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, the issues and challenges that have emerged in the market, the sectors of the accounting profession that have been hit hardest (if any), inherent opportunities from this health crisis, and predictions and advice for accountants for the future.

What marketplace trends are you currently witnessing in Accounting recruitment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic?

We’ve seen our clients take actions to ensure they can retain their top talent whilst also being in a position to reduce costs and not sacrifice their level of service.

Firms have taken measures to minimise headcount across their ‘value-add’ practice groups including Consulting and Advisory, with some staff taking internal short-term secondments to more in demand practice groups.

The traditional pillars of accounting firms across Audit, Business Services and Taxation are holding strong with businesses still needing seasonal compliance work completed along with expert financial advice in navigating this challenging time. Firms are also reporting a sharp increase in enquiries from new clients in relation to capitalising on all available government stimulus packages.

Given the current market conditions, Insolvency and Corporate Recovery has seen a bounce back to levels similar to 2010.

Interestingly, our clients within the Insolvency and Recovery markets have shared that whilst schemes such as the government stimulus packages are keeping a number of businesses ‘heads above the water’ for now, they fear that should the anticipated recovery not come as soon as forecasted, the number of voluntary and involuntary insolvencies will jump drastically in Q4 this year.

As a result, clients are looking to bolster their Insolvency and Recovery offering and teams with the top talent available to them.

Are any demographics (e.g Partners, Managers, Juniors etc) being hit harder than others?

The unique nature of this pandemic is that it is so wide-reaching and deep in its impact right throughout the world and economy that no one firm, grade of seniority or demographic has avoided being impacted in some way.

We’ve seen a wide variety of approaches taken across the different firms – with some Partners and Directors of firms offering to take large percentage hits to their earnings, whilst others have spread the cut evenly throughout all levels.

Client-facing roles are proving critical in this period as firms are working hard to support as many of their clients in navigating through this challenging period and come out the other end with their businesses still in-tact.

What are the major issues that firms will be facing – presently and in the near future – as a result of the pandemic?

The current conditions have provoked a sense of career-reflection and self-reflection right across the market at all levels, regardless of perceived job security status.

The top talent in the market who may have never previously considered a role within another firm are now open to confidentially discussing what opportunities may exist for them.

It is critical that firms get through this period and come out the other side in one piece, however during this time, they must equally ensure that they continue to provide high levels of support to their staff who may be considering their career and employer during this time.

Those firms who are able to withstand this period, with the majority of their workforce intact, will be the ones who recover the quickest.

Conversely, what are some opportunities that can and will arise as a result of the pandemic?

Whilst some firms may not be in a position to add additional headcount during this period, now is proving an opportunity for them to get a jump on their competitors.

I am working closely with some of my clients who are pipelining talent within their high-growth areas. These firms are beginning the dialogue with quality candidates whilst being transparent about time-frames and expectations, to be in a position to make offers and acceptance as soon as the market permits.

Also, over the past five or so years we’ve seen a shift within a number of the professional services firms offering market-leading Remote Working / Working from Home policies.

Those who have had an existing policy in place with expectations, infrastructure and ‘flexible-working’ embedded within their culture have adapted the quickest – in particular those firms who had previously invested in their technology and systems.

Now as a result of the forced Remote Working – this will compel firms to re-assess their Remote Working policies with the view to offering more flexible arrangements available in the future, in-turn allowing firms to tap into wider candidate pools including those who require flexibility with their work/life situation.

What advice, if any, would you offer to Accounting professionals coming through the ranks in firms and/or those who have been made redundant/asked to reduce salary or hours?

Before making any drastic decisions to leave your role without having anything to go to, take a deep breath and assess the long-term trajectory of a decision your considering.

In terms of mindset, candidates have been likening this time to a ‘New Year’ period, where they’re reflecting on their career and mapping out where a career within their current firm may lead them.

Be guided by an experienced recruiter within your field who can confidentially talk through the options available to you within your market – ensuring that the opportunities you’re discussing with them align with your long and short-term goals.

This can also be an opportune time for you to pivot to a new service-line that you may have been considering.

There are clients of mine who are Partners within some of the world’s leading Insolvency and Recovery firms who back in 2010/2011 were working as Auditors or Tax Accountants and decided to made a transition to an in demand market at the time, and haven’t looked back.

For those who have been made redundant, don’t panic – there are firms that are looking to hire and others who are pipelining quality candidates with the view to hire in the next month or so.

Get in touch with your recruiter and get the process started with putting together a quality CV including examples of your most impressive client engagements and key achievements.

Conclusion

Whilst we are now starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel with restrictions starting to lift around the globe, the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic will continue to have a significant upheaval in the landscape of Australia’s accounting profession, and whilst we do not have all the answers at this juncture, there are undoubtedly many opportunities to take advantage to ensure professional and business longevity.

 

For more information about recruitment for accounting professionals in Australia during Covid-19, please contact Zak Beer at Brewer Morris Australia.