Financial Accounting Skills Gap - Part 1

The candidate pool of technically strong financial accounts is falling short of the demand by as wide a margin as we have seen in 20 years.

July 6, 2021
Jul 6, 2021
CFO News Article

We reported last month on the growing demand for Managers with strong financial accounting, technical knowledge and reporting expertise across the UK and the Yorkshire region - Click to view the article.

We have prepared a series of articles to look more into the factors driving the increased demand, the reduced candidate pool and some advice for employers and employees. Over the next two weeks, we will share some thoughts from candidates, CFOs & leaders in finance functions and from the accounting profession. Our first article looks at the results of our survey that was sent to newly qualified accountants from practice in Yorkshire.

What type of role are you mostly interested in?

Finance Business Partner & Commercial Finance roles account for over 41% of the answers, with financial accounting roles representing below 18%. Internal Audit did not register a single response in our survey.

Many accountants are turned by the opportunity to be “closer to the business”, “closer to decision-making” and “looking forward rather than backward” – Finance Business Partner roles carry these features and have been recruited in growing volumes over the past few years. (One client we have been speaking to this week recruited their first three last year and are now looking for three Assistant FBPs).

There are many benefits to going down the technical accounting channel rather than commercial for candidates. Many of the most successful CFOs in our network have built their careers upon a solid rock of technical knowledge and practical application. The ACA syllabus provides a theoretical bedrock and the three-year training contracts exposes individuals to the reporting and controls of a variety of businesses. However, this does not make anyone the finished article in technical accounting – moving into a group finance or reporting function extends these skills further and consolidates financial accounting skills into a valuable strength

Over the next few articles on the Technical Accounting Skills Gap, we will look at some of the views of the candidates behind their current motivations.

What type of company are you most interested in working for?

SMEs accounted for 65% of the answers here, with plcs representing just 23%.

The relevance of this article is that a large proportion of candidates today are looking for an accelerated route to their first Finance Director role – more than likely in an SME and more than likely on a career route that takes them from NQ Accountant to Finance Manager to Financial Controller to Finance Director. 

Our activity statistics and our candidate survey tell us the following facts;

  • Many employers really need more financial expertise in their business and there are many challenges in attracting candidates from the traditional briefs that they have used.
  • Commercial Finance and Finance Business Partner roles have been selling themselves more effectively than their equivalent levels in Financial expertise.
  • Competition for the best candidates from SMEs and private equity invested businesses is strong.

Over the next few articles, we will explore whether there is an image problem for these technical roles. Are more accountants following the pulls that have been more effectively communicated by the other roles? How do candidates compare all options? What are the options for employers that need to fill these gaps?


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