Q1 and the first half of the year in general is always a challenging time for sourcing ACA candidates from accountancy practice firms. The early part of the year is the ‘busy season’ for ACAs. Searching for a new role can be a time-consuming process and auditors don’t have much spare time at this time of year!
In addition, the market across 2022 in the UK was extremely busy and highly competitive for newly qualified accountants, particularly for those trained in the Big Four practice firms. This was driven by the bounce back for many firms post-covid. Therefore a significant challenge at the start of 2023 has been a lack of talent considering a large proportion of the best candidates found new jobs last year; it was the busiest market we’ve ever seen! Salaries were also impacted due to competition for the top talent (as well as inflation & other key socio-economic factors) and as a result the typical newly qualified salary now is around £60K+ (particularly if you are sourcing from the Big 4).
Due to this spike in competition for the top talent, one notable trend in the market has been the growing demand for ACAs from Top 10, Top 20 and mid-tier practice firms. While Big Four candidates still remain highly sought after by employers, Top 10 trained candidates from the likes of BDO, Grant Thornton and RSM are becoming increasingly popular and clients are also expanding their search to candidates from Top 20 and mid-tier practices. These individuals gain exposure to a wider variety of clients and have a more ‘hands-on’ experience during their training, often developing accounts preparation skills – something you simply don’t get in the Big 4. If you are struggling to hire Big Four ACAs, then we would advise considering Top 20 or mid-tier ACAs as these are similar quality candidates with strong academic backgrounds and transferable skill sets.
There may also be a price point difference. Big Four firms continue to be the preference for many employers, with their brand recognition and training programmes viewed as a valuable asset to those looking to recruit top talent. As a result, newly qualified accountants with Big Four experience are generally able to demand higher salaries than those with mid-tier experience – as mentioned above they are generally able to secure offers of £60k+. ACAs from the Top 10/Top 20 will generally fetch a similar salary to Big Four but below that, you may be able to hire really high-quality candidates from mid-tier firms for a slightly lower salary. As mentioned, there are some other great benefits to considering ACAs from smaller practice firms.
Overall, the market for recruiting qualified accountants in the UK remains highly competitive.
However, as we approach the second half of the year (incredible how time flies), there will be a large number of practice-trained accountants approaching full qualification and therefore becoming active on the market. If you want to recruit ACAs, now is a great time to start that conversation and get ahead of the competition. Most of them will be readily available to move between August-October, which will be upon us before we know it!
Please do reach out as I am always happy to have a conversation with you on how we can recruit top ACA talent and offer some market insights. I can also discuss some different attraction strategies GM are implementing currently to make sure we are finding the best talent in the sector.
If you are interested in having a conversation, please do get in touch:
Emer O’Donnell | Consultant
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