If you’re an accountant, you may not get to be famous, but you certainly could become rich. Or perhaps earn more.  Financial services professionals at the top of the career ladder are seeing salaries rise in specialist areas such as risk and compliance, as companies become concerned about sourcing and retaining critical skills in the face of increased regulatory requirements, according to research by recruitment consultancy Robert Half.

In an article by Pat Sweet on accountancyLive (here), the 2014 Robert Half Financial Services Salary Guide shows that 94% of executives say that the management of regulatory reform is a challenge for their businesses – 14% more than last year. Getting on for two thirds (61%) expect the financial workload resulting from regulatory change to increase, resulting in additional recruitment for permanent and interim regulatory professionals.

A quarter (24%) of financial services executives say the finance function is taking the lead on managing regulatory change, with the result that salaries in this specialty are rising in the face of shortages. The highest salary increase recorded in the survey is for head of operational risk at 8.9%, while one in four (23%) executives plan to hire interim staff to manage compliance initiatives.

A separate survey, the REED 2014 Salary and Market Insight report confirms that the market for both part-qualified and senior finance professionals is now ‘back at pre-recession levels – both in terms of job opportunities and remuneration. REED’s research confirms that many organisations now have to counter-offer top-performing staff to prevent a loss of talent, as well as devising more creative packages, including flexible working, to attract new staff. Its research shows that 43% of managers view losing staff with key skills as a problem.

According to REED, more than half (53%) of managers within finance report skills gaps in their organisation, compared to an average of 37% across all sectors, and 70% of these also see these skills gaps as having a negative impact on their bottom line, up from 66% the previous year.

However, the REED survey also shows that job satisfaction among finance staff is very high, with 84% of part-qualified professionals and 74% of fully qualified professionals feeling ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ in their current role, compared with an average of 70% for the UK workforce as a whole.

Phil Sheridan, managing director, Robert Half UK, concluded: ‘Financial services businesses are realising that demand for the most highly skilled talent is outweighing supply, particularly within niche specialisms. Firms looking to attract the market’s most sought-after professionals know that financial remuneration is only one factor affecting candidates’ decisions. As employees aim to balance work and life commitments, offering a comprehensive benefits package – often flexible and tailored to each employee’s preferences – is helping companies position themselves as great places to work.’

Strangely, in the US I see that confidence among accountants is not as strong as we might have thought. In an article titled Accountants Confidence Wobbles Slightly Going into 2014, in accountingTODAY, Daniel Hood says that the accounting profession’s expectations for economic growth wobbled slightly (at least in the US) but remained positive for the fourth month in a row, according to the January edition of accountingTODAY’s monthly Accountants Confidence Index.

Meanwhile, it seems that lawyers are having a good time. The number of partners at UK law firms rose significantly this year as the rate of ‘firing and retiring’ fell, according to a survey by an accountancy firm, reported on in the Law Society Gazette this week, here.  Figures show an overall net increase of 2,795 partnership posts this year, reversing the net loss of 153 partner roles seen in 2011/12, a report by Wilkins Kennedy says. A key factor behind the rise in partner numbers was that 44% fewer partnership posts terminated than in the previous year.

In 2012-13, 3,077 partnership posts were closed, down from 5,487 the year before that.  In total 38,740 partners were practising at UK law firms in 2012.  Wilkins Kennedy suggests the findings show that the worst of the downturn may be over for many firms, although problems may still remain with smaller law firms.
Interestingly, associates (a rung or two down from equity partners) in law firms are starting to question whether partnership is really the be-all and end-all for their careers with some seeing a salary and bonus arrangement based on their own personal performance as being better than  the much more volatile earnings of a equity partner.


Martin Pollins
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