In today’s OJ Insight blog, Chris Cotton (Senior Finance Search Consultant, Oliver James) looks back at the hiring trends we’ve seen in the past year and provides some commentary for what we can expect to see in 2021.
It was a familiar start to the year with finance functions across the globe focussing their attention on completing year-end processes, dictating the usual lull in hiring experienced at this time of the year. UK businesses were also preparing for the proposed introduction of the now delayed IR35 legislation.
Covid-19 then hit the globe, resulting in the second quarter of the year comprising of businesses trying to navigate the changing economic landscape of the pandemic. In the UK, pockets of hiring remained, particularly within the Lloyd’s market. However, many businesses decided to focus their attention on enforcing remote working and on the growing need for digitization in a bid to survive and remain financially stable.
By the end of the second quarter, however, the market began to show signs of improvements. In the first two-thirds of the third quarter, there was also a noticeably positive shift in the frequency of Reporting and Technical Accounting focussed roles, driven by their business-critical nature, as well as the ongoing intensification of Regulatory scrutiny.
In the final quarter of this year, there has been a steady flow of both Reporting and Commercially focused roles. Clients and candidates alike have become well acquainted with the remote interview and onboarding process, and finance functions have proven they can be effective working remotely. There is no doubt that we are at the beginning of a logistical shift in the way we will work for the foreseeable future.
However, this increase in remote working has meant that finance functions across the globe are now facing their first remote year-end. As such, what is often a complex and highly demanding time of the year has just got a little more complicated.
For year-end to be successful, finance functions need to identify any cultural and technical issues, construct a controller command centre, partner with an FP&A, consistently review, and more importantly, ensure communications with key stakeholders are not only maintained but consistent 1.
“Companies that rely heavily on cloud-computing technology to automate accruals, adjustments and internal transactions may be in for a smoother close than those that use on-premise technology on virtual private networks or enter data into spreadsheets manually” 2.
With the digitization of Finance expected to continue, what other trends will surface into 2021 and beyond?
Automation of Financial controls
Insurance is often deemed behind the digitization curve in comparison to most industries. Numbers indicate approximately 70% of CFO’s plan to automate up to 25% of their Finance controls this coming year 3, providing Insurance with an opportunity to catchup with other industries.
Increase in demand for FP&A and Finance Business Partners
As a result of the pandemic, there will be an increased need for planning and re-forecasting, which subsequently will create a greater frequency of commercially focussed roles.
Many businesses will be increasing their preparations ahead of the rescheduled IR35 reform due to come in April 2021.
At the start of this year, many businesses were in the preparation phase for IFRS 17, and as such, many were hiring Technical Accountants to determine the need for change within their business. Now, the bigger Insurers are moving into the transition stage and are preparing for implementation, with many requiring the hybrid experience of candidates with increased systems experience.
Looking to the future and the need for more Junior employees and UAT can be expected. There is likely to be an increase in the need for Accountants and Digital experience. Even now, there is more requirements for non-Insurance experience as businesses look to build their technology, and as such Technical experience will become highly desirable.
Like many industries, Insurance has experienced rapid change at the hands of the pandemic. Finance functions across the globe have demonstrated they can work remotely effectively, and as such, flexible working is likely to remain a regular feature in future opportunities.
Future demand on talent
Looking forward to the future, Insurers will likely look for people who are more senior as many of their back-office functions move to relocated service centres in a bid to reduce costs. Additionally, the economic impact of the pandemic has significantly increased the demand for Expense Management and Business Finance professionals. As such, many will look to redo their five-year strategic plans.
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1. Lawrence, P. (2005) 5 tips for running a successful remote close. Accounting Today, 29 June. Available here.
2. Maurer, M. (2020) Finance Teams Adapt to Closing the Books Remotely Amid Coronavirus. The Wall Street Journal, 31 March. Available here.
3. EY. (2020) Podcast transcript: How COVID-19 is impacting insurance finance teams and insurance CFOs. EY Podcast, 9th October. Available here.