Accountants can expect modest pay rises in the coming year as employers strive to retain staff in a talent constrained market.
Global recruitment firm Hays, which has recently released the 2021/22 edition of its annual Australia and New Zealand salary guide, says that a renewed sense of optimism swept across Australia’s accountancy and finance jobs market in early 2021, bringing with it an increase in vacancy activity as employers reintroduced roles and added to their teams.
However, Hays has also warned that the resulting increase in demand for candidates has not been matched by a similar rise in the number of jobseekers.
Most accountancy professionals decided to remain in their existing roles when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, and many still maintain this mindset, further fuelling the candidate shortage.
In response, some 57 per cent of accountancy and finance employers plan to increase salaries by up to 3 per cent when they next review pay, Hays says.
In greatest demand in the commercial market are qualified accountants from the Big Four.
“Increased financial scrutiny following the pandemic is driving demand for those with strong technical training, exposure to audit or assurance processes and the willingness to step outside the scope of their role and assist their finance colleagues if necessary,” Hays says.
In Sydney, a group financial controller or financial manager of a company with an annual turnover of over A$300 million can expect a median salary of A$265,000.
A finance manager in a company with less than A$100 million in Melbourne can expect a salary of A$117,000, according to Hays.
Commercial analysts are also in high demand.
“Candidates need experience using analytics tools, strong stakeholder engagement skills and an ability to interpret and explain complex financial data to sales, marketing and the C-suite. With organisations increasingly looking forward, this demand will only intensify further.”
In private practice, all levels of candidates are in demand, particularly business services managers. At the manager level, employers look for qualified candidates with at least seven years of experience and substantial direct client management experience.
Principals in private practice can expect to earn more than A$140,000 in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, and more than A$165,000 in Adelaide.
A business services candidate with six or more years of experience in private practice in Perth can expect a salary in the range of A$82,000 to A$97,000, while in Hobart and Launceston the salary range for a similar candidate would be A$85,000 to A$110,000.
Hamish Smith, Sydney-based senior manager in professional services at Robert Walters, says the closure of international borders and state-based lockdowns have also contributed to the talent shortage.
“A ‘war on talent’ ensued, which essentially is a high amount of demand, with very little supply, and with that, organisations are battling to attract and retain talent,” says Smith.
“Overall, 2021 was the year of stability for accountants’ salaries. Marginal increases in some areas were brought about by talent retention strategies as opposed to a significant increase in demand.”
He expects salaries to increase slightly in some areas in 2022, particularly in technical disciplines such as tax and treasury.
“Retention of top talent, inflated counter offers and low unemployment levels are driving this change. In the war on talent, until borders fully reopen and we see more international talent flow, wages are going to continue to be used to retain and attract the right staff,” he says.
Smith says changing legislation in tax and superannuation has placed professionals with tax experience in high demand. System accountants are also highly sought after by most organisations as they focus on efficiency and process improvement.
“More than ever, professionals that have a broad skillset across tax, systems and technical accounting are in demand. Corporates are still very much in cost control mode as economic conditions fluctuate, meaning those professionals who can show they can add value in areas outside of their initial scope are highly valuable,” he says.
“Corporates and firms are also looking for their employees to show flexibility. A lot of businesses have invested a lot of time and trust in flexible working arrangements, work from home, etc., and those who can reciprocate with respect to team engagement, office events and other similar activities are looked upon favourably.”
In fact, candidates now expect a hybrid working model and the ability to regularly work from home. Firms have seen a noticeable increase in the number of people relocating, often interstate, and continuing to work remotely in their existing role.
For their part, employers are looking for soft skills, including the ability to communicate financial data in a way that non-finance stakeholders can understand, which tops the list. Business partnering skills are also desirable, Smith says.