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The accounting skills most in demand

Candidates who are skilled at understanding data and how it works for a business partner will have plenty of options.

Accounting job and income prospects are good across the board, but recruiting experts indicate that individuals with up-to-date experience in data collecting and analysis are in high demand.

“We are now in a situation where the reporting and regulatory side is becoming more and more automated,” says David Cawley, regional director of recruiting company HAYS in Sydney. Candidates who are well qualified in understanding data and how it works for a business partner have a lot of options.”

As data-driven commercial decisions invade every facet of business enterprise, accounting is increasingly following the motto that it acts as a business partner and consultant.

“In five years, the talents we consider as cutting edge now – blockchain, artificial intelligence, and machine learning – will be taken for granted,” Cawley predicts.

“Things are evolving at a breakneck pace.” Approximately 5% of jobs will be lost, and about 60% of jobs will lose about 30% of their work [due to automation] – so it’s all about figuring out how to replace that void with productive activity.”

Strong demand for accountants in public practice

The need for accountants in professional services and public practice is strong, according to Benjamin Jotkowitz, director of accounting recruitment specialist Benelux.

“Typically, candidates need three to five years of experience in commercial services.” They don’t have enough experience if they have less than that, and they have too much experience if they have more,” he says.

Staff for external audits, as well as professionals with tax and self-managed super fund knowledge, are in high demand, “but it’s seasonal.”

Candidates should look to professional services and public practice, according to Cawley.

“Nowhere is a corporate relationship more relevant and important than in public practise, especially in rural and suburban areas, where smaller communities necessitate higher levels of trust.”

“This is where practices set up MYOB and other procedures so that clients can manage their own finances.” So it boils down to collaborating with businesses to boost income,” he says.

Accountants: what are you worth?

According to Hays’ 2018/19 Salary Guide, professional accountants are in high demand. Business analysts and management accountants with project management experience, prominent data finance specialists, and those who can assist in the transition of accounting to a more digitised and automated future are among the most in-demand.

According to the report, 65 per cent of companies will give accountancy personnel a pay boost of less than 3% in their next review, based on a survey of 3000 organisations and 2.3 million employees in Australia and New Zealand.

People with proven talents who are willing to migrate into the small-to-medium enterprise sector and smaller start-ups based on disruptive technologies, on the other hand, are experiencing rises of more than 6%, according to Cawley.

He believes that anyone with a solid accounting education who is willing to work in a team to map out directions will be successful in one of these businesses.

Financial controllers and credit control, which secure a company’s cash flow, are also in high demand.

Payroll services are in high demand.

“It’s frequently an area where people don’t regard it as a great career opportunity, and it’s generally older people that hold roles,” Cawley adds, “but we have significant skill shortages in payroll.”

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Flexible work in accounting

Employers are also looking at flexible work practices as a retention incentive during periods of significant change, according to Cawley.

Flex work is “huge,” he says, but it’s also “a balancing act for many executives who need face time to be effective.”

Candidates come from the Big Four firms, where they were recruited as graduates, according to Moskowitz.

“They’re searching for a better work-life balance after around four years and are pleased to be placed in a mid-tier organisation,” he says.

In the current climate, more well-rounded applicants are more valued, and “employers are searching for candidates with Australian experience who understand the culture in which they are working.” We’ve discovered that international candidates don’t farewell.”

While data is an important driver of business operations, Moskowitz is optimistic about its ultimate realisation.

“A CFO can’t be automated,” he says.

Five hiring trends in the accounting and finance profession

Three recruiting specialists have identified the top accountancy and financial skillsets that businesses are looking for in 2018 – and they claim that IT professionals are in high demand.

2018 is an ideal year to seek for accounting and finance jobs. According to Andrew Brushfield, Victoria and Western Australia director at recruitment agency Robert Half, a robust economy is fueling a hunger for hiring across the country.

“Accounting is an excellent field to enter. It makes no difference whether corporations disclose figures that are red or black, large or small; they must nonetheless submit statistics. The good news is that many businesses are expanding.”

Three recruitment specialists spoke with INTHEBLACK about the trends they expect to see in 2018.

Finance skills in demand

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“There’s always a scarcity of skilled accountants, both inside the profession and in industry,” says Benelux director Benjamin Jotkowitz.

So, what are the most in-demand roles?

“It’s difficult to locate candidates with three to five years of business services expertise,” he says. “It’s difficult to find senior auditors and audit managers in the auditing field.”

“We’ve never seen such a high demand for analytical and commercial accountants,” adds Brushfield.

“Businesses want more from their finance and accounting departments. That ‘more’ is typically greater commercial information… bringing the back and front offices together, being aware of pricing as well as commercial and operational trends.”

Many companies are hiring for these positions on a contract basis. “In the previous year, we’ve doubled our temp book,” says John Meehan, associate director of financial services at Robert Walters. Temporary positions allow small businesses to better manage their personnel while also allowing large corporations to recruit without running into headcount concerns.

“It’s easier to secure approval for a contractor because the annual budget isn’t affected.”

The evolving CFO role

CFOs were expected to do more than money in 2018.

“Clients want all-around with a wide range of experience — someone who can do a lot more,” Moskowitz says.

HR, IT, and strategy are now all part of a CFO’s remit.

“In addition, organisations are searching for candidates who are more hands-on.”

According to Meehan, CFOs require excellent stakeholder abilities such as leadership, communication, and business collaboration.

“When organisations hire a CFO or head of finance, they want someone who can increase revenue.” They’re looking for someone who can assist the company make more money, which hasn’t always been the case.”

Employers seeking IT skills

In 2018, all three of INTHEBLACK’s experts emphasised the necessity of IT skills for accountants and finance professionals.

According to Moskowitz, “technical accounting skills are a given.” As businesses migrate to cloud-based technologies, employers are increasingly looking for specific IT systems skills.

Employers are looking for people with excellent data and modelling abilities as well as Excel skills, according to Meehan, who explains that they want “someone who can look at enormous sets of data, pull reports that add value, and present them to the business.”

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“The barrier between accounting and technology is blurring,” Brushfield says. To get the most out of CRM [customer relationship management] systems used by accounting operations and “offer the commercial intelligence that sales divisions within organisations expect,” candidates must have strong IT capabilities.

Work-life balance for finance professionals

Work-life balance was a deal-breaker in 2018. Employers who provide benefits such as health and wellness programmes, the ability to start and leave early, and the ability to work from home are prioritised by candidates.

“Companies are providing personal trainers every week or an additional level of health checks and diet and fitness information sessions,” says Brushfield.

“Most firms recognise that if they offer work-life balance, they have a higher chance of retaining their top employees.”

However, not all employers follow through on their promises. “Many claim they’re going to do a number of things,” Moskowitz adds. “They’re going to give work-life balance, or a job share, or a start early or a pick-up the kids early.” “However, it does not necessarily translate into reality.”

Attracting millennial employees

Younger workers are leading the charge for a better work-life balance.

“Millennials are attracted by the softer stuff that firms offer: work from home, benefits, reading clubs, and sports clubs,” Meehan adds. “That is unimportant to the elder generation.”

Recruiters have had to adapt the way they talk to candidates as a result of this transformation. “Now they want to know what the company offers and what the benefits are.” It’s not even about money,” adds Meehan, who believes millennials aren’t motivated by money.

“It’s the extra benefits that the companies provide that they’re after.”

According to Moskowitz, a common millennial refrain is “what’s in it for me?”

“They shop around for other employment; there isn’t always a lot of loyalty.” “Those candidates move every two to three years – you don’t see them stay for more than five years,” he says.

“It’s not that these candidates are unhappy in their jobs; it’s just that ‘I’ve served my two years,’ and now it’s time to move on.”

This restlessness may be fueled in part by the desire of the younger generation to perform more stimulating job.

“They want to meet the CEO, compete with the senior business team, and work with the sales teams,” Meehan says. “Rather than sitting in a corner creating reports, they want to be exposed to the business.”

The top 8 issues facing accounting practices today

To provide accurate advice to their clients, practitioners must stay up to date on any tax changes.

The modern accounting business faces numerous obstacles, including constant changes in the tax system, acquiring and maintaining people, and recognising the influence of technology on your operation. Here are eight of the most pressing concerns facing public servants.

1. Staying on top of tax changes

The necessity for public practise accountants to stay current is higher than ever because the tax system is constantly changing.

Whether the changes are meant to boost certain sectors of the economy, assist specific taxpayers, close loopholes, or directly raise more money, they can have a large impact on many taxpayers, according to Robyn Jacobson, a senior tax trainer at TaxBanter Pty Ltd.

Jacobson discussed the most noteworthy changes in the preceding year at the CPA Australia Public Practice Conferences in May and June 2018.

“Most of the tax policy I’m seeing right now is in response to groups of noncompliant individuals,” Jacobson adds.

“Sometimes there are only a few people in certain businesses who don’t follow the rules, but the government will focus on the entire industry.” “It’s like using a sledgehammer to bust open a walnut,” as the saying goes.”

“In certain circumstances, only a few people are doing wrong, but the government implements integrity measures that harm everyone.”

Some of the measures, according to Jacobson, are “very complex,” making it more likely for taxpayers and advisers to make unintended mistakes.

“Practices must be aware of all of these changes in order to properly counsel their clients,” she says.

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2. Being alert to work-related expenses crackdowns

Work-related expense (WRE) claims are also being scrutinised by the Australian Taxation Office. The WRE gap (the difference between what you can claim and what is claimed) is anticipated to be bigger than the A$2.5 billion corporate tax deficit, according to Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan.

When an agent prepares the return, Jacobson argues, overclaiming is even worse.

“It’s critical to understand that in order to claim an item, you must have incurred it; there is no standard deduction.”

“The message is that nothing stays the same – tax changes are unavoidable,” Jacobson argues.

“I go out to clients once a month and talk to them about the improvements, and there’s always more to talk about a month later.”

3. Delivering to the deadline without killing yourself

Client service is the lifeblood of public practise accounting firms. A practise that does not prioritise client service will not last long. There used to be respite between client deadlines, giving practitioners a chance to recuperate and plan for the next assignment; nowadays, practitioners rush from one extreme deadline to the next.

“Deadlines are crushing people with excellent technical talents, and they’re burning out,” says Alena Bennett, a leadership specialist from alenabennett.com.au.

“It isn’t because they aren’t good at what they do any longer. Rather, it’s because they haven’t had the chance to see how leadership qualities may complement their exceptional technical abilities.”

Why isn’t there any downtime anymore?

“The number of changes in the market is increasing, which implies the volume of work is increasing,” says Bennett, a certified accountant.

Of course, staff views towards work and work-life balance have shifted. Everyone used to stay until the job was done, but now it’s typical to leave around 5.15 p.m.

“That leaves the partners to finish the work on their own,” Bennett explains.

4. Getting clients on board with new technology

“There are ongoing regulatory developments that public practitioners must keep up with and advise their clients through,” Bennett explains.

“As technology advances, practises face new issues such as determining the correct investment, successfully implementing new technological solutions, and gaining client buy-in.”

5. Developing or maintaining your accounting firm

So, what’s the answer? How can a company that is constantly under pressure stay not only afloat but also grow? How can one find time to innovate or surprise clients with enhanced delivery and personalised communication while rushing from one assignment to the next?

Bennett shares four practical tips:

  1. Make sure you’re on the right track. Your practise must adapt to the changing landscape. Non-essential tasks should be delegated or eliminated.
  2. Consider how the adjustments in #1 might affect the kind and frequency of your client encounters, as well as how you spend the rest of your time. Streamline your processes.
  3. Make sure your clients and employees are aware of how the changes in your practise will affect them. Have fruitful discussions (see below).
  4. Keep in mind that any actions you do in steps 1–3 must be consistent with your practise philosophy. Now is a fantastic moment to revisit your practise philosophy if you don’t have one yet or haven’t done so in a while.

6. Thinking of small changes you can make

“My challenge to folks who hear my talks is to go back to work the next day and do one thing differently,” Bennett says.

“It could be as simple as talking with clients or employees in a different way, or simply evaluating the consequences of your actions and behaviour.” What can you do differently now that you’re aware of it?”

Small improvements that inspire others contribute to more clarity and, as a result, a better ability to make judgments, which leads to company improvement, according to Bennett. It’s all about turning a negative cycle into a positive one, which is beneficial to everyone.

7.  Working on your communication skills

Ondina (who now goes by her first name), director and personal presence expert from Ondina Studio, had “dreadful professional conversation habits” when she first started in business 21 years ago.

She didn’t realise things needed to change until six or seven years later. Her company was expanding, and she was finding it increasingly difficult to manage her employees.

“People go into business because they have exceptional skills in their chosen industry,” says one entrepreneur.

Ondina explains.

“When they do that, they don’t always have other abilities that are necessary for running a business, especially managing people.”

Conversations in the office define relationships, she claims, and the quality of those conversations affects the business’s quality.

She explains, “We all expect our people to come in and execute the job.”

“Because everyone is so busy, very little time is spent having a discussion.” Many of the executives I’ve met are preoccupied with pleasing their shareholders and making profits.

“Along the process, proper interactions with personnel, which are necessary to make these things happen, get pushed to the back burner.”

From active listening to self-awareness and understanding how one’s emotions will affect the dialogue to tone of voice and conscious aim, Ondina breaks it down into readily consumable bits that go back together to produce meaningful change in the workplace.

She claims that the most crucial reality is that successful communication is more than just words.

She explains, “I assist people understand and be conscious of how they come across, how they form relationships, what their body language signifies, and what stories they tell other people.”

“You generate a sensation in your thoughts, and that emotion creates behaviour.” The better your thinking, the better your actions will be. What kind of habits do you have? What do you have a reputation for? What are the opinions of others about you? Develop a thorough comprehension of these concepts, and your power will skyrocket.”

8. Keeping an eye on the future

If accounting firms want to attract great people, they must be proactive. Because the industry is experiencing a skills scarcity, small and medium-sized practises must alter gears to recruit and retain the next generation of practitioners.

For tiny businesses fighting against larger organisations with more resources, this might be difficult. Smaller organisations can still employ several critical strategies to attract top personnel, such as emphasising the advantages of working for a small or medium practise and cultivating prominent brand awareness so that the company is known as a desirable place to work.

Then there’s the issue of succession planning.

An accountant should be the best person to oversee the sale of a public accounting practise as part of a retirement transition strategy. Outstanding financial and business acumen. Negotiation expertise that is priceless. Strong interpersonal skills.

Despite the fact that accountants are usually excellent at advising their clients, according to Bentley’s The Voice of Australian Business Survey, accounting firms are among the 43% of small businesses that do not have a suitable succession plan in place.

In the last decade, selling a public practise has become more complicated, and careful planning and consideration of all choices will have a big impact on the final outcome.

In its succession planning toolbox, CPA Australia emphasises the necessity of presenting a firm as an appealing investment possibility and establishing its practise profile to help accountants prepare for a possible sale.

This should include information on the firm’s history, team structure, vision, and competitive advantages; details on all services and products offered to clients, as well as any referral sources; an analysis of the firm’s client base; a rundown on its marketing plans; and an overview of its human resources and technology strengths.

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