Just when they're needed most experienced accountants are in short supply. That's the conclusion of a global study that found more than two out of three financial executives say it's a challenge to find skilled accounting and finance professionals for certain jobs.
The shortage couldn't come at a worse time with an increase in financial regulation both here and abroad from Dodd Frank and the Basel accords, prompting a growing need for accountants to help keep financial firms in compliance.
This theme was borne out when we reported recently that the Big Four accounting agencies are still hiring thousands of people despite layoffs in other areas of the financial markets.
Deloitte has recruited 3,300 people in the UK this year (1,200 of these were graduates). KPMG wants to hire 1,500 experienced professionals a year to 2016 and Ernst & Young intends to take on 1,250. The Big Four seem particularly attracted to Ivy League candidates from the U.S. according to one recruiter.
The fifth annual Robert Half Global Financial Employment Monitor reported not only difficulties finding skilled accounts, but also a growing concern about the ability of firms to hold on to their best employees.
Those surveyed said they are more worried today about keeping top performers than they were a year ago. Fifty-six percent of financial leaders said they are at least somewhat concerned about retaining their staff in the coming year, up from 45 percent in 2010.
The study surveyed more than 6,000 financial leaders in 19 countries.
"Many firms are concerned about their ability to build and retain the accounting and finance teams they need to support the demands of the business," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "Finding skilled professionals has become increasingly challenging, and candidate shortages are emerging in some regions and specialty areas."
In the United States, 43 percent of executives said they are at least somewhat concerned about losing key personnel, up 15 points from the previous year's survey.
"As job opportunities expand for top performers, they are more likely to explore these career options, making staff retention a higher priority for businesses," Messmer said. "Especially at smaller firms, the departure of even a single employee can result in lost skills and organizational knowledge that are difficult to replace."