In each country, roughly the same number of CFOs again said they plan to recruit to fill vacant positions. This means that in all those countries the vast majority (between 88% and 96%) plan to hire staff in the second half of the year.
Furthermore, in the UK, 92% of CFOs say they are finding it either very or somewhat challenging to find skilled professionals. In Germany that figure is 85%; in Hong Kong it is 95%; and in Australia 94% find it challenging.
To give a flavour of what is happening around the world, here is a summary of the markets in South Africa and the UK and an in-depth analysis of the careers market for management accountants in Japan.
Returning confidence in South Africa
Nic Sephton-Poultney, country manager, South Africa, Robert Walters says the market is buoyant in his country and region. ‘We have been busier than we anticipated through the start of 2015 and seen an increase in volume of roles since last year,’ he says. ‘Businesses can’t afford to do without qualified personnel in the key finance functions.’
Sephton-Poultney says the South Africa economy took a slight hit at the end of last year due to disruptions in the mining sector, which represents a large proportion of the economy. However, a lot of confidence is returning to those areas, he says – again that is because they cannot do without the business-critical positions that CIMA members tend to occupy.
Sectors experiencing high demand in South Africa include fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), technology and pharmaceuticals, says Sephton-Poultney. ‘The most sought after roles are financial controller, financial management with a strong operational focus and management accountant,’ he adds.
‘The bulk of our business is in the three- to five-year qualified area. Organisations want people who can hit the ground running. Industry experience is also important.’
Sephton-Poultney says that this picture of the jobs market is similar across sub-Saharan Africa and mentions that Mozambique is particularly busy.
This positive outlook is supporting salaries across the region. ‘Because it is a professional skill set, people appreciate the value that CIMA members bring,’ he says.
UK building momentum
According to the Robert Half survey, in the UK, more than a third (35%) of CFOs say that higher confidence among employers is driving the market. The economic climate (33%) and higher confidence amongst workers (32%) are also helping to build momentum. The majority of UK finance leaders are expecting to this trend to continue with 90% optimistic about the UK’s economic growth for the forthcoming year.
Businesses are increasing headcount to support: new projects and initiatives (52%), product and service expansions (44%), and domestic business growth or expansion (43%).
Phil Sheridan, Managing Director, Robert Half UK, says: ‘Accounting business partners and professionals with experience in financial analytics and a strong commercial acumen are receiving more multiple offers as the demand for these professionals is higher than supply levels.
‘Recently qualified accountancy professionals with excellent communications skills, strong commercial acumen, and ability to demonstrate the added-value they can bring to an employer are more likely to land a job offer than other candidates.’
Sheridan adds that the need for accountancy professionals to have strong soft skills has grown as the finance department has moved from being a back-office function to a strategic partner of the business.
Jonathan Firth, Managing Director at Michael Page Finance Consultancy, says: ‘The job market for CIMA members is extremely good. There is a dearth of high quality qualified accountants in the market and CIMA is a well-respected qualification. It is a very strong brand and we advise people that it is a very good route to follow.’
A plethora of new and developing businesses is driving the jobs market. ‘New companies are popping up all over the place and they tend to like people who can get their hands dirty,’ says Firth. ‘That plays well for CIMA accountants as they are able to do a much more varied role. They can help commercially and day to day as well. The qualification, along with experience, adapts well to that market.
‘But while we are finding candidates far more attracted by these fast growth companies, it is good to have a multi-national brand on your CV as well. The large company and multi-national market has also been good for the last two years. It will continue as many companies are growing rapidly.’
Demand is high across all industry sectors. ‘For qualified recruitment in the UK we found that every sector had grown at the end of the first quarter this year,’ says Firth. ‘That is unusual and shows that it is a broad-based market.’
This represents a great opportunity for versatile CIMA members – ‘Finance is about qualification, knowledge and the type of person and you can adapt it to markets,’ he adds.
The need for good commercial information and business intelligence continues. ‘That is an extension of what the planning and analysis department have always done,’ says Firth. ‘Companies need analytical knowledge, and planning and budgeting with a more commercial edge.’
Both the full-time and interim markets are flourishing. ‘The interim market is better than it has been for many years,’ says Firth. ‘That comes down to fast but uncertainty growth and a shortage of good quality people. In the UK, the election affected the first quarter because it created uncertainty, but after the election we have seen companies recruiting more aggressively.’
If you are not a member yet, Firth advises that the faster you can qualify the better. ‘If you take six years, that doesn’t show massive drive and ambition,’ he says. ‘Also it is important to work while studying if you can. People who qualify while at college are at a disadvantage in that they don’t have the experience alongside it.’
Stewart Robertson, Associate Director, Robert Walters, agrees that the job market for CIMA members is extremely buoyant. ‘Demand for part-qualified studiers and recently-qualified professionals is particularly high,’ he says.
Robertson says there has been a notable increase in confidence and a thirst for high quality management information from businesses across most sectors in the last few months. As a result, he expects demand for CIMA members with credible career records to continue or increase into the second half of 2015.
Provided the economy does not suffer a shock, from the Eurozone for example, then Robertson expects confidence to continue to drive the job market for ACMAs and CGMAs. ‘CIMA members will feel increasingly confident of moving jobs and this will create further opportunities as well as those generated by business growth,’ he says. ‘We have seen particular demand across the FMCG, retail, leisure and business services sectors. Financial analyst and business partnering are the most popular roles.’
Robertson’s advice to jobs candidates is to focus on your achievements on your CV and be clear about how you add value, rather than just listing your job descriptions. ‘For example, it you are a financial analyst or business partner, who do you partner with? How have you added value? What has been your individual contribution?’
Also he recommends making sure that you give yourself enough time to prepare for each interview, check the background of your interviewer and remember to impress them with your communication skills. ‘Having the technical ability to perform a role is meaningless unless you can present and communicate effectively in person,’ concludes Robertson.
Japan in focus
Brandon Poyner and Takahiro Takeuchi, both Managers of Commerce Finance at Robert Walters in Japan, say management accountants are in very high demand. This is because Japanese companies see them as business partners, adding more value to the business than traditional accountants.
Takeuchi says the most popular roles are financial analyst, financial planning and analysis managers, finance and business controllers, and business planning and analysis. In Japan, this is all categorised under ‘management accounting’.
‘Some companies are asking for management accountant candidates for all levels – junior through to director,’ he says. ‘Many financial accounting jobs have been off-shored in the last two years, so this has created more demand for management accountants in Japan. Also companies are trying to expand and so are recruiting management accountants to forecast growth and plan efficiencies.’
Poyner adds: ‘If you’re driving business growth, you need someone to analyse the impact of investment and potential return, drive efficiencies, or improve working capital, treasury and cash management. That is management accounting. For most multi-national companies, that is how the future of finance looks. Finance will also become more involved with other areas of business such as supply chain, marketing, and sales.’
Takeuchi says all industries are looking for management accountants. Large exporters, such as car manufacturers in particular are benefiting from a low yen and automotive suppliers are recruiting all types of management accounting positions. Also medical and pharmaceutical companies want management accountants who can analyse and forecast the effect of new product launches on their business.
Poyner advises that, while a management accounting qualification is important, individuals need to ensure that they get hands-on experience with different types of management accounting and financial analysis such as in calculating net present value (NPV) analysis and Monte Carlo simulations.
‘When you look for jobs, look for responsibilities,’ he says. ‘Make sure you can get involved and be aware of size of the team. Some people just want to work for a big company but with a small or medium-sized company, you might be able to get more experience in different areas. In addition, an opportunity to work with other teams in the company is important.
‘For example, if you’re communicating with the supply chain or sales teams, or reporting to the senior management, this is very important in proving your experience and ability to add value to other parts of the business.’
Takeuchi adds: ‘Because of that clients are looking for people that are more outgoing and sociable, and can communicate with sales people, for example. Finance analysts and management accountants need to report information overseas so communication in both English and Japanese is also important.’
Poyner gives the example of a client who is president of a large US company. This client complains that in his experience management accountants are analytical but lack communication skills. ‘But to progress your career you need both skills, for example, you need to know when to be aggressive and push for things,’ he says. ‘It’s very common in the US to sell yourself and your ideas but some Japanese professionals don’t have these skills.’
Takeuchi adds: ‘That is one reason why living and studying in different countries – and particularly gaining exposure to a Western environment – can be important. You can bring that mentality to Japan and communicate it in English and Japanese.’