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Recruitment remains buoyant in professional services despite market uncertainty, say Ambition

Ambition has released its latest market insights for Q3 2017, highlighting the most sought after skills currently in demand by employers.

During the first half of 2017, there has been growth in legal finance vacancies ranging across all disciplines and all levels within finance and accounting, this is a very positive sign in a still unpredictable market. 

Senior recruitment picked up in Q2 with greater movement and an increase in newly created senior positions.  The majority of new roles came from Top 20 law firms in London as firms focused on setting themselves apart from their competitors and assessing their commercial business needs.

Finance business partner, business manager and pricing/commercial accounting manager vacancies have been at the forefront of top international firms’ agendas.  Skills required for these roles include an accountancy qualification (ACA/ACCA/CIMA) with at least five years’ post qualification experience, as well as experience of presenting and communicating with partners. Candidates with the gravitas and credibility to make an impact on senior stakeholders are highly sought after. 

Alongside a significant increase in senior roles, many firms are now building out their commercial teams and are hiring at all levels of seniority. 

Growth in systems vacancies continue to be a trend so far this year, and we expect this to continue for the remainder of 2017. 

In what feels like uncertain times following the results of the General Election, business support recruitment remains buoyant.  Job flow has increased from the tail end of Q2 to the beginning of Q3, through both growth and natural attrition.  

Many employers are predicting exciting growth whilst taking the opportunity to look at efficiency and processes, which is having an interesting impact on the business support market.  Ambition has seen a real trend away from the more ‘traditional’ support roles, with newly created roles now often having more multi-faceted elements to them. 

Experienced PAs and EAs remain in demand and the trend towards hiring more junior level candidates that can grow and develop within a business that Ambition saw at the beginning of Q2 looks set to continue. 

As businesses continue to strive for maximum efficiency from their support teams, candidates who are open to working twilight hours are very much in high demand but short supply. 

The sector in general looks set to continue its upward trajectory and the competition to attract the best talent in the market will remain high. The traditional Business Support roles will continue to evolve to encompass an increasing range of responsibilities and skillsets.

Following a sluggish start to 2017 there was a positive upturn in hiring for business development, marketing and communications professionals across the second quarter of the year. Despite there being a great deal of uncertainty in the market, this hasn’t affected the appetite of firms to hire staff in their BD, marketing & communications functions. 

However, one noticeable change is the increased level of scrutiny many firms are putting on potential hires.  In many cases, this has led to lengthier recruitment processes and more specific expectations being placed on previous experience and skills.  As a result, many vacancies are taking longer to fill than normal.

There has been increased demand in the legal sector to secure business development professionals with both legal experience and experience in the specific sector and/or practice area for which they are recruiting. Consequently, firms have been battling it out for talent among a much smaller pool of people and some job seekers have managed to secure large salary increases as a result of this. 

In accountancy, there has been continued demand for sales talent and an increase in more client care roles which previously only existed in the legal sector. 

Content and thought leadership roles at both the strategic level and operational levels are in high demand. With increased competition in the market, it is clear that strong positioning and perception has been key for firms, hence the need to recruit in this area.

Assistant and executive level roles are frequently becoming available across professional services. At this level, firms are generally more flexible and open to hiring people from out of sector who have transferable skills with prior client-facing BD roles.

A number of firms have looked to bring in a full-time in-house technical & compliance insolvency professional as opposed to referring all their regulatory work out to one of the main independent compliance consultancies. As such, an increase in compliance led roles became available in Q2 that matched the skillsets of JIEB qualified managers and senior managers/ associates.

Aside from compliance roles, the Big 4 along with the larger restructuring practices have continued to focus more on advisory and turnaround work than traditional insolvency appointments which has resulted in a fair few redundancies affecting those sitting in the statutory case progression teams at these firms in London across Q1 & Q2. 

The need for good 2-3 year corporate administrators and senior administrators remains high and the challenge for many insolvency practitioners in recruiting at this grade is that the pool of active candidates seeking a move has shrunk. Many are tied into training contracts for the CPI or ACA/ACCA while others have left the profession to seek alternative career paths with less general market movement, slower salary rises and clear uncertainty as to the future of the profession whilst economic conditions remain largely uncertain. 

Temporary and contract requirements seem to have picked up a bit since the back end of last year as many IPs are running very lean teams that often require interim support when there is a sudden spike in new case work. 

Recruiting fresh graduates and school leavers remains a common route for most Insolvency Practices when bringing in staff to process case work but there still needs to be more of a focus on incentivising graduates to consider the insolvency profession as a credible and realistic career over say sitting the LPC. With less juniors entering the profession, it will be become harder and harder to recruit at the more experienced Administrator levels later on down the line. 

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