Accountants Need To Adapt Or Die

Accountants

Australian companies just can’t find enough accountants, and it’s difficult to think of many professions that are currently in higher demand. Forty per cent of recruiters claim they had difficulty acquiring the necessary accounting skills in 2014, and that their search will go on with job growth predicted to continue over the next few years (itbdigital.com). That the number of accountants receiving skilled migration visas doubled during 2013-14 indicates that anyone with an interest in pursuing the career will receive a warm welcome in Australia.

Reasons for rising demand

Foreign investment and a resources boom are two significant factors contributing to the rising demand for financial skills. China’s interest means that Australia is the focus of the world’s second biggest economy, and Australian businesses are scrambling to reap the benefits; or rather, they’re scrambling to find people with the skills and expertise to help them figure out how to reap the benefits.

Of course it’s not just businesses, but also their accountants that are drawing China’s interest, as it looks to satisfy the growth of its own financial sector. When local recruits can’t meet the required numbers, Australia is naturally one of the first places China turns to for talent, and its industries are willing to pay 15 to 20 per cent more than Australian industries to acquire it. Being caught up in a tug of war between Australian and Chinese businesses can only be of benefit to those in financial services.

Another factor contributing to industry growth is tax reforms, which places an additional burden on companies’ financial resources. One of the most notable of these is the Carbon Tax, which was introduced in July 2014. Organizations require professional advice to avoid further costs and to factor those they have already accrued into their budget.

Staying ahead of the pack

Demand is high but competition in the industry is fierce; those offering accounting services know that something extra is required to stand out from the crowd. The traditional analytical skills that accountants are famous for, though still vital, are no longer enough by themselves. Eighty per cent of companies that participated in a Badenoch & Clarke survey claimed that the accounting profession has changed a great deal over the past five years (accountingweb.co.uk), and accountants need to keep abreast of these changes if they want to keep their skills relevant.

Skills that accountants need to build upon include:

  • Communication: Accounting firms are finding advisory services increasingly profitable, leading to a demand for accountants who can double as consultants. Accountants are required to develop skillsets traditionally more associated with the field of consultancy than their own, and that includes communication. More and more, firms want accountants who are as comfortable with being the face of the organization as they are with being behind a desk.
  • Technology: The traditional methods are being supplanted by business software solutions, and companies are increasingly incorporating the power of social media into marketing efforts. Accountants nowadays are required to develop technological skills to a greater degree than what might have been expected of them in the past.
  • Experience: The Accounting & Finance Salary and Employment Insights 2014 report found that 21% of managers are looking for candidates backed up by experience, as firms are more intent on ensuring recruits can apply their skills in practice within increasingly competitive business environments. This makes the ability to include work experience in one’s studies all the more essential.

More Interesting but just as safe

Fifty-three per cent of employees were awarded salary increases in 2014, with 17.5 per cent receiving an increase of over 10 per cent (ibdigital.com). Those who want to pursue a career in accountancy will be entering a profession that is changing in interesting ways, but for all the change taking place, it remains as safe as ever, and even more profitable.