Following a strong first half of the year, the Finance, Tax and Audit markets have continued their post 2020 recovery in Q3. As COVID restrictions in the UK continue to ease, an increasing number of clients are releasing new roles. As always, the recruitment processes during Q3 are more drawn out than in other quarters due to a number of key decision makers taking their annual leave. Due to such a busy market, this has led to some clients missing out on top candidates who have found other roles while awaiting responses and progression.
As we moved through Q3, the buzz in the city grew as more clients began their gradual return to the office. For many candidates, having a hybrid model of working, with 2-3 days a week at home is welcomed as part of the recent focus on a positive Work-Life balance and is an important factor when considering new roles. As predicted, many firms have started to implement this model and it looks like this will be maintained for the foreseeable future. There are, however, some clients that are asking for a full return to office work, but this does then lead to a reduced pool of candidates.
The market during Q3 has been extremely candidate driven, some saying the most candidate driven market for the last 15-20 years. Many roles are being released as our client base looks to move back to pre-covid levels of output, however, there is a limited candidate pool. This is either due to the strong start to the year where the most desirable candidates have already found new roles, or that many candidates lack a desire to move as perceived uncertainty of the state of the market and economy makes a change less appealing.
In Q3, activity in both the contract and permanent markets were consistent. Contrary to previous predictions, there is still a desire for Day Rate roles despite the changes to IR35. On the Fixed Term Contract (FTC) side, clients are more often than not offering positions with a high chance for extension or even a shift to a permanent position.
On the contract desk, we continue to see an even split of roles released between Day Rate and FTC roles overall. Continuing a trend after IR35, employers are advertising roles under typical market rate, making it hard to find the right candidate for the role. Some employers have become more aware of this, allowing some flexibility of their budget.
Across alternatives, we have seen sustained volume within the corporate accounting and fund finance space. When recruiting for the latter, we have found huge demand for candidates with Real Estate Funds and/or Private Equity experience. Further to that, there is a high demand for Private Debt knowledge as well. Typically, alternative firms favor ACA newly qualified candidates who have audited within these sectors so naturally our candidate pool is vast, especially following on from a September which saw many trainees qualify as fully chartered accountants. However, we often find a large proportion of individuals with this client exposure will try and avoid any reporting duties that often accompany the more interesting commercial, transactional exposure.
Consequently, our pool of suitable or rather willing candidates narrows and our task is to ensure that job specifications appropriately highlight the commercial / transactional elements of the roles. Fund Finance was also busy on the contract side, the majority of these clients have been looking for candidates with at least 3+ years’ experience in Real Estate funds. These were often being released as day-rate contracts, with the rates ranging from £350-400 per day at the Senior Associate level to £450-550 at the Manager level.
Meanwhile, the Sell-Side has been largely dominated by both Product Control and Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) roles. The latter likely due to increased economic uncertainty in the past 18 months, meaning firms are increasing their efforts to plan for the future. We have seen a mix of FP&A roles on both Day Rate and FTC, with rates averaging at £400 daily or £65,000-£75,000. Whereas Product Control roles have largely been Day Rate based, ranging from £300-£500 daily depending on the seniority of the role. While initially clients were looking for candidates with 5+ years of experience, due to the limited number of candidates in the market, clients have often had to be open to candidates with more junior backgrounds. While not looking for programmers, strong VBA and Excel skills have been the top requirements for successful candidates.
There has also been a number of Financial and Business Control roles with a focus on Equities and Fixed Income. Financial Reporting roles have also been common as clients start to prepare for the year end reporting cycle. These roles have appeared on both the Buy-Side and Sell-Side of the market.
While domestic restrictions have been lifted leading to new roles coming to market; on the candidate side, the lack of usual Tier 5 visa accountants from Australia and New Zealand has made finding sourcing talent even more difficult. This is largely due to the difficulty with international travel and quarantine restrictions. However, as we moved through the quarter, we did start to see an initial improvement with an increased number of overseas candidates making the move to London.
Within the tax space, we have seen numerous newly created in-house tax roles. This has been a continuous trend within Alternative Investments for the last few quarters and naturally tax positions in this sector often have large transactional or value add elements. Subsequently, our clients often desire candidates from an in-house M&A/deals tax background. The challenge with these roles as always, is how much of a compliance element, if any, the individual has to be responsible for.
Since the market has picked up after Covid, we have frequently recruited for process and control roles, yet in Q3 we have finally seen an influx in Corporate FP&A/Finance Business Partnering positions. We believe that as firms have filled the urgent vacancies in their process and control teams, they now have an appetite to allocate resources into value-add functions. In this space, we have predominately worked on managerial and above levels as we expect firms are building out their teams from the top down.
The internal Audit market in London is currently challenging. We are seeing a large volume of roles at varying levels across both business and technology audit teams. In almost all instances, clients are considering individuals straight from practice, ideally with a risk consulting background.
Due to a candidate driven market, and a large number of internal audit roles, a lot of clients have considered individuals working on non-financial services clients and sometimes even those coming from external audit, so long as they have a good appreciation for risk. Technology audit roles continue to be the most challenging, but most of our clients appreciate this and will consider applicants without direct technology risk exposure.
Q4 will likely start off fairly busy as this year’s belated summer holiday season draws to a close and many firms will seek to complete onboardings before the start of the holiday period where hiring processes usually tend to slow down. This is the case across both the perm and contract markets.
In the contract space there will likely be a noticeable rise in short term audit and financial reporting roles available as firms start to prepare for Year End accounting periods. On top of this, Clients will look to bring in temporary staff to help complete projects that have deadlines in the holiday period.
From a permanent perspective, whilst this can be a challenge in Q3 as well, Q4 brings us even closer to bonus season and this certainly makes getting candidate traction more difficult. However, the number of new vacancies released towards the mid-back end of Q4 does decrease. Generally, firms will look to the New Year as a time to release new vacancies. Those that do get released are usually replacements in
teams who play a vital role in year-end processes, and often there is a challenge to find individuals with shorter notice periods.