In the zone: Are you one of finance’s most sought-after professionals?

Around half of all Australian businesses say it is a challenge to find the right candidates for a range of financial roles.

According to the Robert Half Salary Guide, accounting professionals, business analysts and financial analysts are the functional roles most in demand for just over a quarter of small businesses and around a third of large businesses.

The state of accounting here and overseas

A review of university course data from 2001 to 2012 shows a 20 per cent drop in Australians studying accounting, the same period has seen a staggering 500 per cent increase in the number of international graduates.

Though many foreign graduates return home after study, low vacancy levels have prompted the Department of Employment to recommend the removal of accountancy from the priority list for skilled migrants.

CPA Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia beg to differ. In a joint submission to the Department of Employment, they argue that “labour market conditions for accountants are tight and getting tighter” and curtailing skilled migrants will only contribute to “demand pressures” that are already tight in rural and remote areas.

The rise of the generalist

Does Australia have an oversupply of accountants or simply too many candidates without the broad skills necessary to succeed in this day and age?

Increasingly, companies are looking for more than just fiscal acumen – they want finance professionals who can see the big picture. It’s part of a wider business trend that indicates that generalists, rather than specialists, are better at “navigating uncertainty”.

Large accounting firms, such as PwC, for example, want candidates with experience in “psychology, engineering, technology and economics”.

For finance graduates in a tough market, it means being able to demonstrate “a logical approach to problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills”, says Kevin Jarvis, Director for New South Wales at Robert Half.

Balancing act

Although employers may have the upper hand when it comes to choice, competition for top financial talent is intensifying, along with worries about keeping those high performers.

More than 90 per cent of Australian businesses are concerned about losing key finance employees in the next 12 months, according to Robert Half’s Salary Guide.

The report indicates that those employees are most likely to leave for a more competitive salary, opportunities for training and development, and a better career path. So don’t take them for granted. Similarly, finance professionals in a crowded market need to ensure they have the dexterity to stand out from the crowd.

Both parties can benefit from the CPA’s Career Guidance System – a tool that identifies the skills that make up a “well-rounded and effective” finance professional.

For more information on the latest finance and accounting hiring and salary trends as well as information across other industries, including technology and administration, visit the Robert Half Salary Centre.

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