Across the recruitment sector and beyond, the initial response to Brexit was one of shock. We noticed a definite slowdown in the immediate aftermath of the referendum result, leading to quieter summer than expected across the sector. It now seems like the market is continuing on the pre-referendum upward turn, through only time will tell what the true, long-term impact of the vote will be.
Prior to the referendum, the market had just recovered from a post-recession downturn, and was in the midst of a talent shortage. Brexit has brought no changes here – there is still a shortage of high quality candidates in financial accounting and few newly qualified accountants seem willing to leave the Big Four, with even fewer moving from practice to industry.
That said, there is now a different problem to contend with as candidates are, understandably, more concerned about job security post-Brexit. Whilst Brexit fever has subsided compared to what we saw in the immediate aftermath, it is still a factor affecting the decision making process for candidates. We’re finding that candidates are not only less willing to move but are now much more cautious about the types of companies and sectors they would consider moving to.
Opportunities for contractors
New survey data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) on hiring post-Brexit reveals that temporary and contract vacancies dipped across the professional staffing market in August, as in July. However, the finance and accounting sector was the clear exception, with vacancies increasing by 16% in August. APSCo data also showed that permanent vacancies within financial services have increased 5% year-on-year, indicating long-term market confidence.
The British financial services sector has historically proven very attractive to foreign nationals. However, since the referendum, prospective candidates from within the EU are already thinking twice about moving to the UK. We’ve even had one of our overseas candidates pull out in the middle of the recruitment process as a direct result of the announcement on 24 June.
It is hard to see a solution and we will have to wait until there is a decision on the rights of EU citizens to work in the UK. In the meantime, it will make international recruitment a difficult landscape to navigate and could cost companies dearly, with high priced contractors exploiting the lack of supply.
Accountants bucking the trend
For accountancy practices, Brexit may actually represent an opportunity, with clients actively seeking advice and direction on how to deal with the impact of the vote, and they can expect this to continue. As businesses throughout the UK prepare for Article 50 to be invoked next year they will need expert help to cope with the changes that a new trading environment will bring.
The biggest question currently facing British industry is when to enact contingency planning, with many companies concerned about the wisdom of leaving the single market.
Attracting top talent
The recruitment industry is working hard to fill roles but the market in general remains fairly static, especially for middle and senior management roles. It is not only taking longer to fill roles, but companies have fewer candidates to choose from.
It is hard for companies to attract the very best candidates while keeping costs under control, as it is a competitive market and there is a shortage of high calibre candidates. In terms of recruiting the best talent, it is not just a case of offering a high salary or even a competitive package.
Candidates are looking for soft benefits, such as flexible working hours and then it is about the nature of the role – whether they like the culture of the business and, most importantly, the opportunities for career progression in both the short and long term.
The result of the referendum will without doubt have an enormous impact on the UK financial services sector, but when it comes to recruitment today, the biggest differentiator is the ability to provide real evidence of career progression within the business and a defined career plan for the candidate.
Jonathan Abelson is director at MERJE