In professional practice, qualified and experienced external auditors will be in demand for the first half of the year, according to the Hays Recruitment Job Report for January to June, for reasons including a leakage of candidates to commercial organisations.
Late last year, Hays’ research put the audit function in the automation pipeline, but employers are still finding significant value in senior and professional practice experience.
Consistent with previous trends, virtual CFOs continue to be a growing area of demand as more firms seek their services and providers continue to populate the market.
“This outsourced finance role is becoming more popular with employers, while for firms it provides a new revenue stream and the opportunity to provide greater value to clients,” Hays said.
Professionals with both SMSF and tax experience will also be “highly valued,” with Hays finding candidates with significant experience in both areas to be a rarity.
The SMSF sector has just undergone its most significant period of reform since 2009, with wealthy clients in particular feeling the sting of new caps and reporting obligations. Investment Trends also predicted a spike in SMSF-related work for accountants, particularly those who are able to give financial advice.
R&D Tax Accountants will be another area of demand in response to growing client requirements to get the incentive across the line. The ATO has been particularly stringent in its surveillance of the R&D program, resulting in longer-than-expected waiting periods and compliance headaches.
Business services professionals will be needed in demand, particularly those with experience at the intermediate and senior/manager levels. There is a continuing low supply and high demand for suitable candidates, with loss to commercial organisations again a factor.
For professional practice in general terms, employers will be on the lookout for candidates with strong communication skills. Technical skills are consistently highly valued, but employers are finding advisory work suffers where communication skills aren’t strong.
In the public sector, management accountants will be in particularly high demand in the first half of 2018. Hays expects a spike in temporary or contract-based roles in management accounting, with public sector organisations typically skimping on training.
“Public sector organisations rarely offer training and development or cross-skilling for their teams in this area. Consequently, the departure of a management accountant leaves a huge hole in the abilities of a team, which employers quickly fill,” Hays said.
“Employers often look for high performing management accountants with exceptional business partnering skills who can engage with senior stakeholders in operational and other non-financial areas and bridge the gap between finance and other departments.
“To be successful, candidates must also be able to set financial goals, processes and policies, and provide advice to department or business directors.”
Hays also predicts the public sector will be on the hunt for financial analysts, with strong and high-level Excel and OLAP (online analytical processing) application expertise in order to perform complex financial modelling work and analyse large volumes of non-financial data.
These candidates will also need to have strong management accounting and reporting backgrounds and good business partnering skills.
“This role is not as senior as a finance business partner role, but they both require a unique skillset that is not naturally prevalent in mainstream accounting teams. The majority of public sector organisations do not have strong succession planning or training programs in place and so are not developing a suitable employee to fill this role. Many of these roles will be newly created and project-focused,” Hays said.
With an increase in employers looking to roll out new systems for 2018, Hays is also finding systems accountants will be in demand in the first half of the year. However, candidates will need substantial experience in negotiating with vendors and liaising internally to ensure a smooth rollout and that the finance function aligns with expectations.
Finally, in response to restructures and growth resulting from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and disability services, there will be demand for account payable officers. Rates officers will be sought in response to council amalgamations.