First the good news for accountants: There are plenty of jobs out there. Now the bad news: Some recruiters say salaries are rising at a slower rate than they have in previous years.
Candidates with backgrounds in taxation, auditing and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are commanding premium salaries even as companies grapple with a slowing economy, according to Toronto-based recruiters. Having the designation of Chartered Accountant is an advantage for some jobs, though the recognition of the Certified Management Accountant designation is increasing.
"The demand for CAs from our clients is slightly higher this year than last year," says Barrie Carlyle, vice president at David Alpin Recruiting. "There is still enough optimism in the Canadian economy that even if we see a slowdown, it won't be anywhere near what the U.S. has gone through."
After rising steadily for the past few years, salaries for CAs are starting to level off, notes Kevin Brockie, regional director for client services of Lannick Associates. "CAs are not quite as scarce as they were last year, but they are still in demand," he says. That view was backed up by Carlyle, who says clients are giving new CA hires salary increases of about 5 percent.
However, Jocelyn Yacoub, president of Y&A Recruitment Professionals Inc., a national executive search firm based in Toronto, disagrees. "My CAs won't make a move from one company to another for a 5 percent salary increase," she says. "The demand for CAs is higher than the supply."
Income Trusts Ruling Shakes Up Tax Accounting
Taxation accountants are needed, as well. Demand there stems from the government's decision to tax income trusts much like it taxes publicly traded stock. That move "caught most companies off guard and put a halt to many public companies' plans to move to income trusts," according to Carlyle. Because of the shortages of qualified people, corporations are battling their consultants - where tax accountants get their training - to attract qualified people, Yacoub reports. "The three- to five-year level (candidate) is needed in every organization because they are the doers," she says. "They are the guys that do the real technical tax work."
Tax professionals with such experience are commanding salaries of $100,000 (Canadian), up from $75,000 five years ago. For people with five to 10 years of experience, salaries rise to $120,000 to $150,000, Yacoub says. People with 10 years or more experience receive $150,000 as a base salary, she adds.
Finding auditors also remains a challenge since many CAs "prefer to seek opportunities outside of audit," Carlyle observes. Demand for accountants familiar with IFRS is increasing because companies need to comply with the standards by 2011. "There are not a lot of people in Canada who know IFRS unless they worked for an international company," says Lannick's Brockie. "They are taking people who know Canadian GAAP and are training them in IFRS."
According to Yacoub, IFRS specialists are seeing salaries of about $90,000 while newly certified CAs are getting paid between $60,000 to $65,000, up from $40,000 five years ago. A senior auditor will get a base salary of $100,000 with 10 years experience.