Accountancy Industry, Market Report, Autumn 2020

Is life returning to the accountancy jobs market? The people with the inside knowledge can be found in the Harvey John Finance and Accountancy team.

Here are the Autumn market reports for the Commercial and Industry sectors…

Where to start?

Let’s start with a positive comment:

There is employment activity in the accountancy jobs market!

Before we get ahead of ourselves, as expected, it is a subdued market but, encouragingly, there are pockets of activity. For some candidates the market is very active with multiple interviews to attend and job offers to compare. For others, it’s a very frustrating, demotivating time with very little traction in their search. As expected across all sectors, the increase in candidate numbers and those looking for work far outweigh the opportunities available.

There is more movement at the transactional end of the market due to possibly more fluidity with candidates moving around as well as seeing a number of newly created roles being registered demonstrating a positive outlook from some clients.

What we all have to remember in this climate is to remain positive. It is not a time to apply to every vacancy that is posted and hope one application sticks as that will most certainly lead to a demoralising situation. Work on your CV, your interview preparation, seize every interview opportunity as best as you can and work with recruiters who are niche in your market.

In terms of the commercial senior finance market over the past quarter we have seen some movement, but as expected numbers are down, year on year. This remains a highly competitive market with fewer opportunities coupled with a saturated candidate market. We’re seeing fewer newly created vacancies with the majority on the replacement side of things but with high candidate numbers, clients are certainly able to be selective when shortlisting.

Where are the jobs?

Typically there are more junior positions at the transactional level such as accounts assistant, purchase ledger and credit control. As businesses pick-up, the day to day activity such as payment runs, chasing payments etc will see the increase first. It is busiest at junior levels but there are still mid level roles out there too, just not as many.

Market trends

We are seeing candidates from all specialities, but the travel and aviation sectors have been hit the hardest. There have been cutbacks at some financial services firms, as retail and construction, but not at the same level.

In general, August and September were relatively okay and not dissimilar to last year. I wonder if this is just the hangover from lockdown i.e people recruiting the roles that have been put on hold. I worry that once clients have caught-up and recruited those roles they’ve wanted to fill since March, then things will go quieter. Towards end of September, it already seems to be getting a bit quieter.

Is confidence returning?

Yes confidence is returning but it’s fragile. We haven’t exactly had a surge of activity, but it has been much better than March to July.

The London startup / scale-up market seems to be quite polarised with activity at junior and senior ends, whilst the mid-level seems to still be quiet.

I’ve observed a big increase in the amount of part-time roles, coupled with the expected emergence of remote positions. The majority of employers are saying that these are temporary and most are planning returns to the office soon if possible (at least partially).

Market trends 

Investment trends in London seem to be very sector specific, but overall there is agreement that funding is still out there for those who are looking for it. However, most are reporting that decisions are taking longer, with a greater degree of due diligence taking place on potential deals. Perhaps this is a sign that startups are competing a dwindling amount of money from a less confident pool of angels/VCs.

As with the broader economy, things remain generally subdued in London but there are promising signs, particularly within some sectors such as Food & Beverage / FMCG (Fast-moving consumer goods).

Is confidence returning? 

Many clients are mentioning the spectre of the ‘second wave’ this winter as a reason for not hiring further. Those with less confidence are thinking more about survival mode into 2021 before reconsidering their next stage of growth.

Generally there are more junior roles but I’m also seeing an increasing demand for Payroll at the moment.

There’s a demand for transactional staff as companies are playing catch up but I’d say clients are generally looking for a LOT of experience, even within those types of roles where previously they would have been more flexible.

I’m seeing more going on in Surrey and towards London than there is around Gatwick, which has been affected by the struggles in the aviation / travel sector.

Market trends

We’ve had a good quarter (which is encouraging) but this could just be everyone back from furlough and then playing catch up. It’s been slightly busier than I’d anticipated and we have made a fair few placements across the board, which is better than March / April when almost everything seemed to have been withdrawn or placed on hold!

In the last few days, job flows have been a little slower.

Is confidence returning? 

Confidence has returned to an extent in some industries (pharmaceutical / medical devices / food manufacturers etc) and I hope that this continues to spread throughout other sectors. However, the fear of a second wave also looms large with some companies.

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