How the finance and accountancy industry needs to buckle up for the long haul

Veteran recruitment leader, Dominic Wade, is co-founder of specialist finance and accountancy talent firm, Wade Macdonald. Himself and Philip Macdonald co-founded the firm in the early 90s and since it has weathered three financial crises and a pandemic, now working with the likes of Blue-Chip companies across the UK.

Rising inflation and interest rates, an energy crisis, an unstable government, and constant flip-flopping of policies; the UK’s economy is in stormy waters for the foreseeable. As we near toward another recession, decision-making and futureproofing is clouded by uncertainty – the government certainly isn’t giving us much hope – and it’s yet to be said what the next two quarters will deliver for businesses. Many cheered at the repeal of IR35, the most ill-conceived pieces of legislation to ever be inflicted on businesses, but the appointment of Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor who introduced it, as the UK’s latest Prime Minister has put a spanner in the works.

Regardless, the show must go on and with the finance sector being at the core of the economy, firms must buckle up for the long haul if they have a view to come out stronger than before. It’s tempting, perhaps human nature, to recede to safety in times of uncertainty but knee-jerk decisions made now can cause years of immobility and risk falling behind competitors.

Play the long game

Nothing about this economy and job market is easy. The financial challenges we’re grappling with are completely new to some, namely new businesses and start-ups entering the market post-2008, and for others, this is just ‘yet another hurdle’, but the strategy always remains the same. Be cautious but play the long game.

The challenge during any economic crisis is balancing costs and revenue to ensure consistent profit and protect staff. Weigh up what can realistically be cut back on and put efforts into resources and initiatives that will benefit your long-term goals.

The current state of play won’t last forever, and the last thing businesses want to be doing is emerging from under a rock in six months’ time to find the business and its prospects decimated.

Scoop up the talent while the competition is down

Talent in finance and accountancy is abundant if you know where to look for it. While it’s a given that staff retention should be a priority, in times of crisis it’s a prime opportunity to get on the look-out for more talent. It will seem like a counter-intuitive move until we emerge from economic crisis and your competitors who made drastic cuts are clutching at straws.

Finance professionals understand the value of a (sensible) high-cost investment in the long-term, and if there were to be any investment made it should be in people. There are skills and talent shortages, but firms need to be more open-minded in their talent acquisition methods.

According to Wade Macdonald research in its 2023 Salary Guide, which looked at the current state of play of the UK’s finance and accountancy sector and what professionals value most, approximately a third of the workforce is actively engaged in looking at opportunities, and even if they’re not actively seeking a new job, 50 per cent could be enticed away for the right opportunity.

Financial Reporting Council data shows there are still disparities in equality – the industry’s gender pay gap sits at 10.9 per cent this year. On the diversity front, research found only one of the UK’s Top 20 accountancy firms is led by a CEO from an ethnic minority background. And Reboot results of 1,000 finance professionals reported in FN London suggests those from ethnically diverse backgrounds are not offered as many career opportunities as their white colleagues: nearly a third (31 per cent) of those from an ethnic minority background said this has made them consider leaving the sector.

Additionally, this year’s Social Mobility report showed over 10 per cent of young people from all backgrounds still remain NEETs impacting every sector beyond just finance and accountancy.

This trifecta of gender, ethnicity, and social mobility employment gaps will have long-term consequences on the sector if not addressed sooner. Particularly at a time when talent is in dire need, businesses need to be widening their talent pools to plug gaps in order to strengthen their offering and business pipelines – boosting social mobility at the same time.

By pursuing talent from multiple sources, firms are likely to gain candidates with varied backgrounds and experiences, which brings the fresh perspectives and multifaceted skillsets unlikely to be found when only hiring from one stream that is potentially outdated and no longer fit for purpose. Think apprenticeships, non-red brick universities, career-switchers and returners, and temp roles.

While it’s difficult to predict what the latter quarter of this year will have in store, namely with the recession which is predicted to last into the early part of 2023, it’s important to keep in mind that business goes on. Ultimately, the finance and accountancy industry has shown its incredible durability and ability to adapt to changing landscapes time and time again– and if anything, this should be a walk in the park compared to the pandemic.


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