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 2016 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 experience
also continued throughout 2016 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 2016. In some cases it worked and staff stayed
but in most cases candidates moved on as money wasn’t their primary
Employers who kept their recruitment processes short and efficient were
more successful in hiring key finance staff than those who continued to
have longer, slower and sometimes disjointed recruitment processes.
This awareness of market conditions and a willingness to adapt their
processes paid dividends for many of Grafton’s clients recently. Sharing
important market information that could impact clients’ recruitment
plans forms a major part of Grafton’s business partnering approach. This
has seen higher success rates for clients and reduced risk when it came
to offer stage.
The part-qualified and transactional finance market remains competitive.
Demand for good Credit Controllers has steadied and as employee numbers
increase across the board Payrollers are sought after. As some companies
enjoyed growth in 2016 their need for Accounts Payable staff increased to
The Big 4 firms continue to compete for strong graduates with more
opportunities forecast for 2017. There continues to be an appetite amongst
the Big 4 and mid-tier firms for Chartered Accountants with exposure to
disciplines including Corporate Finance, Forensic Accounting and Advisory.
2016 seen an increase in demand for candidates with strong corporate tax
experience, particularly CTA qualified Tax Managers, of which there appears
to be a shortage.
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 2016 and
this trend is expected to continue into 2017.
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 2017. 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
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. As a result salaries and
benefits have improved 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.
2016 was another 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 2017.
The insurance sector in Northern Ireland remained stable in 2016 and there are some who are predicting further progress in 2017. 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. 2017 has been greeted with cautious optimism within the NI insurance sector.