Accountancy industry in hiring spree amid downturn

Accountancy industry in hiring spree amid downturn

Accountancy firms bolster numbers but remote working providing integration challenges

Accountancy industry in hiring spree amid downturn

Accounting firms continue to hire, despite the precarious situation of both the UK and global economy.

“It’s a relatively simple philosophy. We’re a service business, therefore we need the best people we can possibly find to help service our clients,” says Ian Carlson, managing director of Old Mill.

Old Mill recently took on 17 new hires in one week, nine of which were university or school leavers.

“We had this open-door recruiting policy anyway. When the pandemic started, we took the view right at the outset that we wanted to emerge from it in a stronger position than when we went into it.”

Accountants have reported that the pandemic has made them busier than ever, answering client enquiries and providing financial advice for an unprecedented market shock.

“Our clients are they’re looking to be advised and supported, particularly at this moment”, says Carlson. “If a client calls or email us and we say, ‘we’d love to help you, but we haven’t gotten enough people at the moment.’ That’s not a great position to be in.”

Most recent data from the ONS found more people employed in financial and insurance activities between April and June of 2020 than in the same period last year.

At the other end of the sector, EY in their last fiscal year ending June has hired more than 83,000 new employees globally with about half of those in graduate/entry level positions. EY in a typical year however, hires in the area of around 90,000.

“Like so many other companies, we are carefully watching how the pandemic is progressing, how the economy is progressing and what our clients need,” says Dan Black, global recruiting leader at EY. “We have continued to hire, but the pace has been a little bit slower the last several months.”

Onboarding in a remote working environment has proved challenging and with around half or more of the new hires being fresh out of school, training and guidance for them was a key consideration.

“Getting people all the equipment, they need to get them up and trained all without stepping foot for the most part in an office was a challenge.”

Given the hiring process for graduates, much of the logistics could be planned in advance. Black adds that summer internships, while done remotely, proved to be quite successful and feedback from the candidates has been positive.

Carlson has done something similar.

“We didn’t want to leave anything to chance, everything was needed to be planned out. Everyone met with one of our IT team the week before to get set up with their laptop, their phones, their login and etc. We’ve had a pretty detailed virtual induction session mapped out that covered everything from technical training to marketing.”

Carlson also says that in terms of training school and university leavers, much of that training can be done remotely and to the same level as in the office.

“From a technical perspective, a lot of the training revolves around the trainee and the trainer sitting around a screen looking at a set of accounts.”

“Whether you’re doing that sat next to each other in an office or one person sharing their screens via teams it amounts to the same thing, you’re sharing a screen and one person is teaching the other. I see no reason from a training or development perspective that can’t continue virtually.”

Hiring for the future

Though getting new employees ready and sorted for remote working was difficult, the idea of it also provides opportunities as well.

“If enabled properly through your employer with the right tools, [location] becomes less important”, says Black. “It’s an additional layer of flexibility for both the employer and the job seeker. It means I can find some talent that that doesn’t necessarily base in city X.”

Carlson agrees saying that as a regional firm, they may look to hire people located outside of South West England.

“If we can allow flexible remote working, then from our perspective, we can recruit from anywhere. If there’s a tax specialist who happens to lives in Scotland or Yorkshire or more generally beyond daily commuting of South West England why not? It’s an opportunity in recruitment and for retaining people as well.”

Financial services lead the way as the most resilient and growth-oriented industry according to a recent report by Sage. But with CJRS set to end in October and unemployment rising many fresh graduates and those with experience will be faced with the prospect of job hunting in a competitive market.

EY is currently conducting live sessions in multiple time zones to answer questions from jobseekers for both those looking to work in financial services and the wider economy.

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