Accountants of Australia: This is where you stand in the job market

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I heart accountants 2012

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As Australia gets ready to celebrate a major date in its calendar (social media campaign “I Heart Accountants Day” on Friday, of course), we thought it appropriate to review the current job market for number crunchers.

Ernst & Young launched the promotional drive in 2011 to recognise the business contribution and diversity of Australia’s 123,000-strong accountancy workforce.

Annette Kimmitt, partner, Ernst & Young, says she hopes this year’s event will attract young people to the profession who might not otherwise have considered an accounting career. “We recognise that there will always be demand for accountants, and we want to ensure there is great talent in the pipeline right across the industry,” she says.

The employment outlook for accountants in Australia

Western Australia is the most buoyant state for hiring, according to David Jones, managing director Asia Pacific, Robert Half International. Expansion in the resources sector is creating new roles and accountants are confident enough to move between jobs, he says. “While there is plenty of rhetoric in the news about the halt or decline in mining projects, it is yet to hit the workforce in the west.”

In Queensland mining and the public sector are the two biggest employers of accountants. A slowdown in the former and job cuts in the latter have caused a major fall in vacancies this year. Hiring in Victoria remains steady due to the ongoing resilience of the local economy, while employers in NSW are generally cautious about recruitment.

Simon Tobin, managing director Ambition Finance, points to an uptake in Q3: “We have seen an increase in accountancy recruitment in recent months, but this is mostly coming from non-financial services rather than the banks.” The domestic banks are hiring where necessary as there is always demand for key roles, but the investment banks and international banks are quiet, he says. 

Most of the jobs are for financial accountants and management accountants – from junior management down to clerical level. Jones says 60 per cent of the placements made by his firm in the last six months have been for sub-$100k roles.

“There is hardly any recruitment for growth, but we are seeing critical replacement hiring, and many organisations have done everything possible in terms of headcount management, so that additional attrition is now more likely to need replacing,” says Tobin.

Hiring from outside financial services is at reasonable levels across all sectors, and most recruitment is coming from mid-size companies. “Larger businesses have the option to promote, redeploy or absorb roles more so than mid-market businesses so we are seeing more hiring activity in the latter,” says Tobin.

Regulatory accountants are in demand because of the increasing complexity of tax reform.

At Ernst & Young, one of the busiest parts of the transactions-advisory business is debt advisory, with more companies seeking advice because they find it difficult to secure funding. “There is also a lot of activity in valuations and business modelling, which reflects the increased support and sophistication that companies want around their decision making,” says Kimmitt.

“Similarly, we are seeing more demand for our operational-transaction integration services as companies make sure they identify and deliver on all synergies identified in a merger or acquisition.”

Jones says the fourth quarter last year saw slow hiring, beyond the usual seasonal decline. “The question everyone is asking, is: ‘will this happen again?’”

The employer-led market creates an opportunity for businesses to upgrade if there are any areas of relative weakness in their current team, says Tobin. “Job seekers, however, remain very cautious and will only move if all the elements of a prospective role and organisation are perfect.”

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