Finance, Banking & Insurance Overview
Overall market confidence continues to improve in Northern Ireland which is partly fuelled by positivity about the economy and a more stable political landscape. Companies are hiring, not only to replace those who leave for new opportunities but to accommodate growth. This is most prevalent in Northern Ireland’s export heavy sectors which include Manufacturing and FMCG.
Vacancy numbers have increased across these sectors in 2015 although preference remains for candidates with sector experience, particularly when recruiting for commercial / analytical roles within finance. Experienced finance business partners who can add value by producing useful analysis and improving reports to aid the decision making process remain in high demand.
Demand for finance candidates with shared service centre (SSC) experience has also continued throughout 2015 with the introduction of a few more SSCs across the province. Finance candidates with a second European language remain of interest although availability has reduced recently. With the continued hard work of Invest Northern Ireland and the impending reduction of Corporation Tax in 2018, the SSC trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. This is welcome news to newly qualified accountants, particularly those seeking their first move from Practice.
The increased number of opportunities for good Accountants of all levels has forced companies to increase salaries and introduce retention tools including improved benefits packages. A willingness by employers to keep quality staff has resulted in a distinct increase in the number of counter offers witnessed by Grafton’s Accountancy & Finance team in the last 6 months of 2015. In some cases it worked and staff stayed but in most cases candidates moved on as money wasn’t their primary motivator.
Salaries continue to increase slowly as competition for the best talent drives salaries upwards. As company performance recovers some clients are giving welcomed salary increases and adding to the benefits package to satisfy and retain staff. Qualified accounting opportunities increased in 2015 and this trend is expected to continue into 2016.
We have seen significant growth in most areas of the transactional and part qualified accounting disciplines across Northern Ireland but particularly in Belfast. ACCA & CIMA studiers along with Bookkeepers, Assistant Accountants and Accounting Technicians jobs have all gone up in number as well as remuneration. Volumes of Credit Control and Ledger processing roles have remained steady as have salaries for these roles throughout the course of the year.
Candidate retention has been a key area of focus for many organisations with counter offers on permanent roles and retention clauses employed for fixed term contracts.
As has been the trend in recent years, the strongest candidates in all areas of accounting are on the market for a very short period of time necessitating streamlined recruitment processes, in particular for those candidates staying within their experience sector. This has been prevalent in both permanent and temporary recruitment and across all accounting disciplines.
All in all, the outlook for the Part Qualified and Transactional market is optimistic and although it hasn’t returned to pre-recession numbers, is definitely heading in the right direction.
Public practice remains extremely competitive in Northern Ireland and there is no sign of this slowing in 2016. A lack of candidates across most disciplines creates opportunities for those wishing to remain in Practice, both with their own firm and others who are often offering better packages to tempt them away.
There continues to be little difference in the packages offered by the Big 4 firms which creates a bit of a stalemate when attempting to attract candidates from each other. Small and medium firms in general continue to increase their client base but some have struggled to retain staff to service them. This, like in other sectors, has improved salaries and benefits in order to keep staff and attract new employees.
Most disciplines continue to increase numbers although Business Recovery has reduced again. Tax accountants are very much sought after both in corporate tax teams and private wealth.
2015 was a disruptive year for Banking in Northern Ireland with some banks restructuring which has impacted staffing strategies. Salaries have remained steady with few increases in general. The improving situation with the NI economy will undoubtedly help the banks as companies require funding to support growth in 2016.
The insurance sector in Northern Ireland remained stable in 2015 and there are some who are predicting further progress in 2016. Salaries have remained fairly static although overall packages have been improved by some to attract and retain strong business development staff to help improve market share.
The local broking market remains very competitive with clients having an increasing number of additional ways to buy products. 2016 has been greeted with cautious optimism within the NI insurance sector.