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Finance & Audit Catch Up

We decided to catch up with our dedicated Finance & Audit recruitment team, three of whom are poised to celebrate their MERJE work anniversaries this month.

Andrew Varty, MERJE’s Finance & Audit Managing Consultant, has been part of the team for nine years, Senior Resourcer Mandy Abelson for four, and coming in at three years is Consultant Gemma Cardew.

Between them, this capable trio has a solid understanding of all aspects of the Finance & Audit arena. Their years of experience have provided them with invaluable knowledge of the complexities of working and recruiting in regulated environments.

They pride themselves on specialising in part-qualified and fully-qualified Finance, Audit, Accountancy, Treasury, Tax and Purchase Ledger roles up to director level, across multiple sectors and throughout the UK.

This means they’re not phased by talks of IR35, IFRS, ACCA, CIMA, budgets, forecasting, LTV analysis or any of the other crucial skills in the Finance arena, and they’re on hand to support in finding the best talent or next career step in this space.

Let's check in on what's going on in their world...

quick links

About the Team | Trends in the Market | Hiring Advice | Job Seeking Advice | MERJE So Far | Working at MERJE | Career Path | Quick Fire Qs

First things first, tell us a bit about your roles and specialisms at MERJE.

Andrew: I lead the Finance & Audit team across London and Manchester and specialise in the recruitment of senior Finance & Audit professionals both in the UK and internationally.

Gemma: I started at MERJE on the Credit Risk & Analytics team and then, following some re-structure within the business, I switched to the Finance & Audit team about 18 months ago. I have been tasked with building out the Finance & Financial Services desk for the north west. I recruit qualified Accountants, including Management Accountants, Finance Managers, FP&A Managers, Regulatory Reporting Accountants, Heads of department and CFOs.

Mandy: I support Andrew, Gemma and Jonny (Managing Director and expert Finance recruiter) in sourcing candidates via job boards and LinkedIn. Basically, they find the roles and I find the right people for them! I really get to know candidates, their background, skills and desires for their career, so that I can pair them with the best opportunity.

Working across the Finance, Accounting & Audit sector means speaking to a huge variety of people, ranging from Management Accountants and Audit Executives through to CFOs and Heads of Audit.

What trends have you noticed in the Finance & Audit recruitment market recently?

Andrew: Currently, I’m seeing high demand in both Finance & Audit. While historically it has been Auditors that were most sought after, this is now also the case across general Finance. Technically strong candidates with good regulatory knowledge will always have plenty of great employment opportunities to choose from.

Gemma: Yes, we’re busier than ever across the board! There does seem to have been quite a shift regarding the lack of availability of candidates since the start of the year. Applications are very low and our methods are far more focused on search and select at all levels, from Finance Analysts right through to Heads of department. It’s extremely competitive; most candidates I’m engaging with have several opportunities on the go at any one time and can therefore cherry-pick which employers to consider.

Mandy: As Gemma and Andrew have said, our sector has certainly picked up; the volume of roles coming through across all industries has soared recently, with positions that had previously been put on hold due to Covid-19 now being re-released. Now, we’re navigating an extremely competitive, candidate-driven market.

What advice would you give to employers who are recruiting in the current market?

Andrew: Flexibility is key, not only when it comes to remote and agile working, but also when considering CVs. Sometimes, candidates from outside the sector can add more value than individuals with direct industry experience.

Gemma: Move fast or don’t move at all! It’s imperative that when you receive CVs, you review and feedback in a matter of days as good candidates are off the market within that time frame. It’s also really important that you are clear with your requirements and have a good idea of what is essential versus the elements of a candidate's attributes that you’re willing to be flexible on.

Mandy: Make the employment process straightforward and efficient; it’s still too often the case that the recruitment journey takes far longer than it should. In a candidate-driven market, people have multiple interview processes on the go at once and the best talent will be snapped up quickly. You’re going to miss out on great skillsets if you don’t accelerate your hiring process.

Seconding Gemma and Andrew’s comments, in some cases, it would be great for clients to be more receptive to candidates who are qualified by experience, rather than having a specific Accounting or Audit qualification. These perfectly skilled and capable professionals slip through the net when they could be adding so much value to businesses.

And what about candidates seeking new roles at the moment?

Andrew: Maintain an open mind and don’t just judge opportunities by the job title. Instead, look at the organisation and where the role will take you. Also, get to know the hiring manager and the wider team as they will be critical in your career progression.

Gemma: It’s really important to think about what you want and state that clearly to any potential employer or your representing recruitment consultant. Compile a list of things you are and are not willing to budge on. Be transparent from the start and honest about other processes that you are involved in, where you are up to with interviews and what your preferred role is. This puts hiring managers/recruiters in the best position for you - able to negotiate for exactly what you want and speed up the process in the hopes of offering you the job sooner.

Mandy: Be receptive to hearing about every opportunity in detail. If you dismiss a role too quickly without taking the time to delve into precisely what it entails, you might well miss out on your ideal job.

Too many people are seemingly driven by the salary and are not thinking about other key aspects of an opportunity, such as culture, career progression and skill development.

Also, it is wisest to stay in your current role - if feasible - while you conduct your job search; this allows you to make a careful decision, rather than one which is borne out of desperation.

How have your MERJE experiences been so far and what are your thoughts about your time with the business?

Andrew: My experience with MERJE has always been great. After 13 years with my previous organisation, it was a big decision to take the plunge and move (I had a young family at the time), but I have never looked back! While it is a challenging, high-performing environment, we have a lot of fun at the same time and everyone is respected.

Gemma: From a business performance perspective, we’ve had a great year establishing our Finance & Financial Services offering and I look forward to continuing to grow and develop this area of the business. I really enjoy working with Andrew, Jonny and Mandy, we have a great dynamic and laugh a lot!

Mandy: My MERJE experience so far has been amazing, and I wish that I had made the move into recruitment earlier. I cannot believe how quickly the past four years have gone. Never having that Monday morning dread is a testament to how much I enjoy my time at work. Working and collaborating with great people in the office is the best part, and learning from the more experienced consultants on a day-to-day basis is invaluable and has made me more rounded in my role here.

What do you like best about working at MERJE?

Andrew: The flexibility and trust that I have been shown since day one. The people are nice too!

Gemma: I feel privileged to work for MERJE. We have fantastic directors who are very much immersed in the business, lead from the front and are an inspiration to us all. We are treated very well and afforded the trust to get on and deliver for the business. I think MERJE is very unique in recruitment in that respect.

Mandy: The team and the management! It’s refreshing to be in an environment where everyone is passionately working towards the same goals, and also where employees and employers feel like we’re part of a family. Even when you are having a bad day, the mood is lifted by the comradery and laughter we have as a team. Working hard, but in a relaxed and informal environment with no KPIs allows you to succeed without unnecessary pressures.

What are you looking forward to in the future of your career at MERJE?

Andrew: While most of my colleagues have me down for retirement, I look forward to further building the team, bringing on new people and making it even more successful than it is. I may be a little older than some of the folks here but I am still young at heart.

Gemma: My immediate goal is to be promoted to Senior Consultant, then, who knows? Maybe one day I’ll have my own team!

Mandy: Continuing to grow and develop my recruiting skills further. Also learning daily from a host of experienced recruiters and being an integral part of a growing Finance & Audit team.

quick fire...

Best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Andrew: Relationships are key. It can take a while to build them but they will last a lifetime.

Gemma: In business, always listen to what everyone else has to say before throwing your two pence in.

Mandy: Listen carefully when speaking to clients and candidates and don’t take it personally when the recruitment process meets obstacles, such as dropouts, ghosting and rejection. Also, being transparent when talking to candidates is crucial. Honesty goes a long way toward forging strong relationships.

Favourite MERJE moment so far?

Andrew: There are so many, it’s too hard to pick. The socials are always great, especially our trip to Barcelona. Likewise though, I have some great clients and candidates that I have successfully matched. You can’t beat that feeling at the end of the day when you have found that elusive candidate for a client or secured the perfect role for a candidate.

Gemma: Just about any time our friendly and funny office neighbour and character David Raines comes to visit the team!

Mandy: There are far too many to list, but our team trip to Barcelona is going to be hard to beat and was definitely a visit to remember.

Describe the MERJE culture in three words

Andrew: Successful, professional and flexible.

Gemma: Collaborative, rewarding and autonomous.

Mandy: Fun, passionate and collaborative.

TV show recommendation

Andrew: I should be so lucky, I don’t get near the TV remote as that’s my wife’s domain.

Gemma: Gomorrah is the most outstanding series I’ve ever watched and the soundtrack is simply stunning!

Mandy: This is a tough one as it ranges from reality to gangster/mafia shows. I could be watching The Real Housewives one minute and Narcos the next.

Andrew, Gemma and Mandy are your go-to experts when it comes to all things Finance & Audit recruitment at MERJE. Find out more here. If you would like to talk to them about your search for a new role or hiring the right fit for your business, why not drop them a line. See all our current Finance & Audit vacancies here.