Market Overview


Following a year of incredible recovery, the contract Finance, Tax and Audit markets finished 2021 in strong fashion. Clients were keen to complete the hiring and onboarding processes before the start of the holiday season. Usually we see the market slow down as we move through Q4, however, this year we remained busy throughout.


Amongst candidates there was growing concern on the returning prevalence of Covid cases in the UK as the Omicron variant started to spread during November and December. This led to slight uncertainty among candidates and an increased preference for more lenience towards full remote working. Due to this uncertainty, longer term contracts or those with possibility of conversions to permanent positions were increasingly attractive. Conversely, there were cases of more junior candidates purposefully seeking short term roles with an aim to take time out to travel in Q2 and Q3 2022.


Across the contract market we continued to observe a split between Day Rate Roles and Fixed Term Contracts (FTCs), and during Q4 we began to observe more flexibility in budgets, with clients often asking for guidance on the market rate.


Overall Q4 and 2021 as a whole has been an unprecedented year in recruitment even in the face of wider uncertainties. Levels of hiring returned to pre-2020 levels and changes in social and work trends have led to candidates re-evaluating their current career projections. Clients who are willing to be flexible in salary negotiations and acted quicker during hiring and onboarding processes were more successful in securing the best candidates.


Role Profiles


In the contract market, we saw a lot of activity from our Sell-Side clients, this was particularly the case for Internal Audit roles on the Capital Markets side of Banking with clients requiring a more technical and regulatory focus. These have generally been up to a year in length from the VP to Director level, paying a Day Rate of £600 to £800 umbrella.


Product Control has been an area that has been particularly busy in the contract market in 2021 and this remained the same during Q4. These generally are released as Day Rate contracts, ranging from £300 to £500 daily depending on the seniority of the role and have often focused on Credit products and Global Markets. However due to the limited pool of candidates, our clients have often had to be open to candidates with a more limited background.


On the Buy-Side we have seen a number of Fund Accounting roles released by our clients. Alternatives and Real Estate experience have been key skills clients have been looking for in candidates this year, however, going into Q4 we saw a number of contracts released with a focus on OEICS, Investment Trusts or Private Equity experience. These have generally been shorter, 3-6 month contracts at £55,000 to £70,000 as an FTC or £350 to £450 umbrella as a Day Rate. In this market, we’ve observed a more limited number of candidates at the junior level due to a general trend of outsourcing and nearshoring of the Fund Accounting function outside of London.


We have also seen a number of Associate level Financial and Statutory Accounting roles, this is often the case in Q4 as our clients look to add temporary workers to cover the busy year-end accounting period. For these positions, our clients have been looking for Newly Qualified candidates from a ‘Big 4’ background, preferably with some industry experience. However, we have seen that clients have been open to seeing other backgrounds with successful candidates coming from a range of industries.


We saw several project roles across both Asset Management and Banking. Project based contracts tend to be common in Q4 as firms who see they have the budgetary capacity seek to bring in contractors to help pull the project over the finish line. A number of our clients looked to bring in qualified accountants with experience in system migration as clients look to upgrade their systems ahead of key regulation changes.


We’ve continued to see activity from the insurance market, in Q4 we saw a steady number of roles across different levels of seniority. Our clients were particularly looking for experience candidates, with prior experience in controls based roles, focusing on regulatory and technical accounting to provide support to the wider finance team. These were Day Rate contracts looking at a range of £500 to £650 daily. Successful candidates tended to be seasoned contractors with 15 to 20 years’ experience and were those with key regulatory knowledge, including SOX and Solvency II.


Market Predictions


As usual for Q1, particularly as bonus season starts to approach, the more financially motivated candidates will tend to be more inclined to consider new opportunities. As a result we expect to see a number of new openings on the contract market as clients look to fill these replacements.

Depending on global reactions to the latest Coronavirus variant, we hope to see an increase in international candidates wishing to enter the UK market as travelling restrictions continue to be lifted. Candidates on Tier 5 Youth Visa’s have always provided a great pool of candidates who are immediately looking to jump straight into new roles.


On a regulatory side, as the implementation of BASEL IV in January 2023 approaches we expect to see an increase in the number of roles expecting key knowledge of these new regulation across all three lines of defense.