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Accounting firms blossoming in the regions, survey finds

Business

Two out of three are optimistic about the future although finding staff remains a challenge, says NAB. 

By Miranda Brownlee 9 minute read

More than one-third of regional practices rate revenue growth in the past year as good and the other two-thirds as satisfactory, a recent NAB report has found in a generally optimistic picture of the sector.

NAB state business banking executive, regional and agribusiness Naomi Stuart said the biggest challenge for firms with scale, skill and reputation in regional centres was recruitment.

NAB’s 2024 Accounting and Financial Planning Report found that 69 per cent of firms named hiring, retaining, and training staff as their biggest challenge. This was despite government population data showing that in 2021–22, regional areas saw the biggest increase in population for more than a decade driven by high levels of internal migration.

“During COVID, people flocked to regional centres, but many kept their city jobs and worked remotely,” said Ms Stuart.

“However, with workplaces calling staff back to the office, we’re at the point where they must decide whether they want to move back to the city or take a job locally. It will be interesting to see whether regional firms can entice them across.”

NAB said in response, regional firms were finding new ways to make themselves an attractive proposition for employees, including investing in staff wellbeing, pursuing young talent and offering professional development opportunities.

They were pulling out all the stops, it said, using recruitment agencies and actively pursuing staff from big international firms.

Regional firms could also offer a pathway to partnership without the 11pm finish expectations, Ms Smith said.

“This is something regional firms can facilitate more easily. Working for regional firms can also provide better work-life balance – you can work from the office and still get the kids to football training.”

Farren Smith, business bank executive, regional & agribusiness at NAB, said: “Anecdotally, we hear a lot about amenities such as car parking being really important in getting staff back to the office.”

NAB professional services banking manager, Canberra, Rob Donoghue, said partners at regional firms were also actively upgrading or acquiring computer and IT equipment to make themselves more appealing.

“A lot of firms are transitioning to cloud-based storage and investing in technology that allows more efficient in-house processes,” said Mr Donoghue.

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