Sheridan Maine Regional H1 2015 Market Review

It’s hard to believe that H1 2015 is now behind us and that we have just booked this year’s Christmas party! It has been an interesting six months with significant growth and challenges alike. We entered January expecting a period of consolidation however we have continued to experience exponential growth and it is great to see Sheridan Maine expanding across the UK and establishing itself as a national brand. We have also faced a number of challenges mainly caused by a tightening in the talent market. Permanent business has increased in line with the confidence in the market, with Temporary/Contract roles remaining firm albeit a shift in job type to more Project/Commercial based roles. In this report, we delve into the changing characteristics of each of our key markets and bring to life the changes that have occurred over the last six months across the South Coast, Thames Valley and South West regions.

Commerce and Industry
In the Commerce and Industry space there has been a definite switch during the first half of 2015 to a candidate-driven market from the largely ‘job-driven’ market that existed throughout the recessionary period. Companies are now on the lookout for the highest calibre candidates in the marketplace in line with the UK’s drive to increase productivity per head.

Market Review 1 Small
At present we are experiencing a real ‘war for talent’ that has never raged stronger.  This is evidenced by firms counter-offering their best candidates and making it extremely difficult for their core staff to move on due to ‘golden handcuffs’. Organisations are now more mindful of the cost to re-recruit and aware of the difficulty they will encounter when sourcing the talent they need, thus, they are now counter-offering above market conditions.

 This has had the knock-on effect of driving up salaries for the most desired candidates, in particular for practice trained accountants.  However, we are also finding that technically strong, charismatic candidates at all levels, from transactional through to Director are very much in demand and commanding higher salaries as well as a clearly defined career path.

The first six months of 2015 have been particularly interesting for the Interim recruitment market across the Thames Valley, South West and South Coast regions. The market this year has presented a number of encouraging signs, including an increase in the number of project roles being created as organisations strategically invest in new systems and business change initiatives.  

We have also noted a higher number of positions for Interim Financial Controllers than in the preceding 18 months. We conclude that during the economic downturn, organisations were unable to offer secondment and development options to their internal teams which would have allowed them to gain sought-after project exposure. As businesses have started to grow and expand once more, the pressure to retain good staff has dramatically increased.

Demand has remained extremely high for qualified and technically strong Finance Interim Managers. There has been a noticeable increase in this space due to FRS 102 and demand in this area has been greater than the number of candidates available, leading to higher rates than would have been normally expected for this type of resource. Overall, strong technical accountants are in high demand in both the Interim and Permanent market and organisations and recruiters have to work in true partnership to attract the best talent for these roles.

Although the Permanent market has shown a sharp increase, organisations are still selecting to utilise a mix  of flexible resource to work in conjunction with the Permanent teams.

Professional Services
Looking back over the first half of 2015, it has become clear that the Professional Services market in the UK has experienced a notable increase in confidence. The demand for talent within the Big 4, mid-tier and leading independent firms is aligned with the economy’s upward curve, and compared to this time last year the volume of vacancies in Professional Services are much more diverse and varied.

The typical practice firm’s strategy has evolved to a stage where it is fundamental that they attract core talent externally, potentially due to the increased competition for industry roles meaning more and more candidates are remaining in practice. Given the skill shortage and tight labour market; the time to hire agenda is key along with firms now reaching out to the international candidate pool; however this does bring its challenges in the form of the Tier 2 VISA.

It has also become apparent since the beginning of 2015 that key roles in service lines such as Audit, Tax and Corporate Finance have become far more prominent in the market than positions within more niche service lines such as Insolvency, Recovery & Restructuring. We have also witnessed Mergers & Acquisitions opportunities equally gathering pace in terms of volume, which is indicative of firms aspiring to increase market share now the economy is on the up.

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The first half of this year has seen a monumental change in terms of candidate packages. What we  are seeing is a real transition in what a candidate values most in the professional services space, and surprisingly, this is shifting towards non-financial benefits such as work/life balance and continuing professional development as opposed to salary and bonuses. However, on the flipside, we have observed a return of the sign-on bonus vs counter-offer dilemma, with organisations old and new battling it out to contain or attract talent in a talent-sparse environment.

Senior Finance
It has been a busy start to the first half of 2015, as businesses search for finance leaders to support their growth strategies by either creating new roles or re-scoping existing positions. We have enjoyed a definite upturn across both the SME and large enterprise market. These growth strategies and investment plans have also initiated a shift in vacancy content type from technical to commercial value-add positions.

Moreover, the improved and sustained UK economic growth has led to Senior Finance candidates becoming increasingly confident in switching roles, often more for a new challenge rather than just being solely motivated by an increase in salary. Naturally, as these candidates move on their roles have to be replaced, further fuelling the Senior Finance market.

A note from Sheridan Maine Managing Director, David Heron
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the majority of calls we had coming into our business were from candidates seeking jobs – things have certainly changed since then! The majority of the inbound activity we now receive is from organisations seeking candidates. This has resulted in a shift in our focus from new business to more proactive candidate sourcing in order to satisfy the increase in demand for talent.

The challenge that organisations now appear to be facing is the balancing of the benefit of retaining key staff whilst simultaneously ensuring that salaries and expectations are realistically managed. With statistics revealing that 70% of employees that are ‘bought back’ following resigning either leave or are let go within a year, managers need to decide if this strategy is the right approach or just delaying the pain which could ultimately be disruptive to the business further down the line. Similarly, candidates need to be cautious of only chasing the money and ensure that any move is also career-enhancing.

Looking back over the past six months, it is great to see the market booming again with the creation of new roles to support future growth.  Let’s just hope that lenders and investors alike have learned from the past few years and that this growth phase remains sustainable!

We enter H2 2015 very optimistically and look forward to supporting our clients and candidates every step of the way.

If you would like any further information about this article or event, we would be pleased to help you! Likewise, to understand more about how we could work with you to support your organisation’s recruitment strategy or find out about our current vacancies please get in touch with your local Sheridan Maine office or submit your CV here. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Sheridan Maine’s unmatched knowledge of Finance and Accountancy Recruitment is why we are the go-to specialists for permanent, contact and interim positions for a broad range of clients across Basingstoke, Southampton, Reading, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Bristol, London and Birmingham.