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Brexit causing slow-down in corporate finance recruitment


We have just released our latest Market Insights for Q4 2017

Legal Finance & Accounting Market Insights Q4 2017

Following on from a busy year at the senior end of the market, we are now seeing an increase in junior to mid-level finance roles, which are a mixture of newly created and replacement positions.


In Q3, we found even more of a demand for e-billing specialists in the market, ranging from newly created e-billing roles to adding to an already established e-billing team. We have seen more billing and revenue control positions which would indicate a busy period for law firms in London. Additionally, 1-2 years legal cashiering experience is also sought after.

There has been a large volume of recruitment within Financial and Management Accounting roles at the qualified level between £50,000 - £65,000, however there is a real lack of candidates within Legal Finance with this experience. Previous law firm experience is usually requested at this level but firms are having to be more flexible in considering candidates from wider professional services.

We have also seen an increase in regional opportunities, typically in locations such Birmingham, Bristol & Manchester as firms continue to look at alternative locations to London. This has created further and more senior opportunities for those individuals in the regions but also to those individuals in London that may have previously felt London was the only viable option to establish their professional services finance & accounting careers.


In the last quarter we have seen a rise in newly qualified financial and management accountants and we predict that we will continue to see this in Q4. We will probably therefore see more candidates from other professional services firms making the successful transition into the legal sector.

With it being some firm’s financial year ends in December, often these are cash based firms, we see that they often require temporary credit controllers/billers in this busy period to help collect as much outstanding debt as possible.

We expect to continue to see a rise in the need for e-billers, as we have seen for the year so far. As well as this, we also expect to see that systems specialists will continue to be in demand (in particular Elite 3E users) due to systems updates and conversions in the sector.


The merger between Chadbourne & Parke and Norton Rose Fulbright went live in Q3. We expect to see more M&A activity over the next 12 months.


Counter offers – these are happening more often than not, with firms not wanting to lose good staff and then go through the recruitment process. Ways to help avoid this effecting your offer:

Move quickly – prove your interest in the candidate.

Sell in the role – what can they gain from the role, how can they improve their skill set and how can they progress.

Sell in the firm – be open when talking about the culture of the team and the firm.

Benefits – show off your benefits as this may be important to your potential new employee.


Counter offers are rife in a candidate short market and it is easy to be flattered by these, but take the time to remember why you were looking for a new role in the first place.

Don’t use a generic CV - ensure that you spend the time tailoring your CV according to each role you are applying for, especially if you have a varied skill set.

In this busy market (at mid-level) it may be common to be involved in more than one process at a time resulting in more than one offer. Make sure you find out all of the information you need throughout the interview processes to help make the right decision for you.

Corporate Finance Market Insights Q4 2017

The decision to leave the EU has led to a definite slow-down in recruitment within corporate finance. With the depreciation of sterling, M&A itself has seen a rise in activity as UK assets have become more affordable for overseas buyers.  As a result, we expect to see general recruitment into Corporate Finance gradually increase.  Over the last 12 months, it has become increasingly more difficult for newly qualified ACA candidates to make the move into Corporate Finance. Those who have spent three years within Audit, whilst having a good foundation for Transactional Services, have struggled as a result of their lack of exposure to deals.

Despite the slow start in the first quarter, there was an uplift in deal volumes moving into Q2 with little change in Q3, signifying buoyancy in the M&A market.  Given the economic and political uncertainties globally, some may be surprised to hear of the continued strength of the M&A market. We are very much in a seller’s market with the likes of PE funding and cash rich corporates exceeding the number of businesses for sale.


Within professional services firms, manager level candidates are in high demand, particularly in transaction services, closely followed by advisory.  Those with extensive financial modelling experience are also sought after, especially when paired with advisory experience.  The need for commercial awareness paired with strong technical knowledge is becoming more necessary.

Many corporate finance teams within accountancy practices are finding that the pool of candidates at the Manager level has shrunk. Despite a reasonably flat year for M&A markets generally, most professional services firms were inundated with work and struggled to keep on top of headcount.


Paul Joyce joins Mazars from Deloitte as head of corporate finance in London. He brings with him over 12 years’ experience of working on mergers and acquisitions for a wide range of managements team, private equity and corporate clients.

M&A activity within the food and beverage industry has been healthy.  In particular, the alcoholic beverages (specifically craft beers and spirits), and “better for you” sectors, where demand has been high.

US payments company, Vantiv, has bought Worldpay Group in a £9.3billion deal.  The takeover supports the boom in the electronic payments industry as more people shift from cash to paying online and in store card transactions switch to contactless.

Consumer packaged goods holding company, Post Holdings, acquires Weetabix for £1.4billion.


It’s difficult to predict what will happen over the coming months; speaking with others in the market it would not be surprising for M&A activity to continue to increase towards the end of the year. This in turn will have an impact on the need to recruit, with firms struggling to keep their heads above water and turning work away. As such, we expect to see a rise in the number of senior executive / associate manager roles being created to pick up the slack where they haven’t been able to attract Managers. 

Given the significant interest in Fintech globally and its ongoing evolution, we have seen an increase in the number of firms offering specialist expertise in this area. The likelihood is that this is only going to continue over the next 12 months with what is proving to be the biggest disruption to the financial services industry since Big Bang 1986. Meanwhile, the ever accelerating move to the cloud continues to drive the worlds of IT and telecoms closer together through M&A.

Insolvency Market Insights Q4 2017

Although the new legislative rule changes to the Insolvency Act commenced in April this year, a lot of the process implementation and general education on these changes has taken place throughout Q3. Those with case file inspections will have spent a large bulk of time getting documentation together and the same can be said for those scheduled before year end.

The Q2 insolvency statistics were interesting in that the numbers were significantly inflated following the one-off liquidation of 1,131 personal service companies. It was only once these numbers were stripped away that you saw corporate insolvency levels at their lowest quarterly level since comparable records began. Although Q3 figures won’t be released until late October, the feeling around the market place is that there were more corporates appointments taking place.


Looking at the Big 4 and the upper end of the mid-market, the need for advisory and restructuring skills in London has become even more prevalent. With PWC stepping away from more formal insolvency work in London and Deloitte equally making changes to their main UK office, the need for accountants with the ability to get involved in operational restructuring and turnaround projects is a must.

Much like Q2, the need for good corporate case administrators with 2-3 years’ experience remains high as many firms are running very lean teams and there seems to have been a sustained period of new cases coming through the door across Q3. Equally, there will be some who will view it more as a spike than a constant so interim staffing requirements may be the preferred route.


Quantuma bolstered up their personal insolvency offering with the appointment of Mark Sands from RSM in their Brighton office but will look to also cover Southampton and London markets. Mark had been with the RSM group since 2009 and is considered one of the UK’s leading personal insolvency practitioners.

Despite it only having been six months since Alvarez & Marsal poached four of KPMG’s most prominent insolvency and restructuring business leaders in Mark Firmin, Richard Fleming, Roger Bayly and Chris Johnston; the firm has continued to make significant hires throughout this time with two new Restructuring Directors joining in Q3 from PWC in Tom Rayfield and Mark Smith whilst recruitment is likely to continue into Q4.

Kingston Smith’s commitment to remaining competitive in the creditor services arena was clear to see this quarter as they welcomed on board Dale Heron (formally of Begbies Traynor) as their new Head of Creditor Services in London.

The closure of PWC’s Insolvency Management Team in London signalled the accountancy firm’s intent to move insolvency statutory case work up into the more northern regions of the UK; namely PWC’s Leeds office.

If the mid-end of Q3 is anything to go by then there is likely to be even more movement in the jobs market as firm’s look to bolster up their teams following what seems to be a fair pickup in the level of new insolvency appointments.

Good insolvency administrators and senior administrators will likely remain the most in demand candidates in the current market although the challenge in recruiting at this grade will continue with a significantly reduced pool of talent between £25,000 - £40,000 and the fact that many will be tied into CPI & accountancy training contracts.

Although there are many economic factors influencing the state of the current insolvency and recovery market, a slight rise to the base rate may have a fairly big impact on insolvency levels in the UK. If Mark Carney’s most recent comments are therefore to be believed; that the bank is starting to feel more comfortable in raising the cost of borrowing should economic conditions continue to show signs of improvement, then latter Q4 going into Q1 of next year could be a busy period for IPs across the UK and that will mean more recruitment activity.

Business Support Market Insights Q4 2017

On the tail of a long hot Summer, the last remaining months of 2017 look set to be both interesting and exciting times for business support within professional services.

Firms in the legal sector continue to evaluate efficiencies and effectiveness from their business support teams and we have seen news of several restructuring programmes that are due to take place in Q4.  Whilst this can understandably be difficult times for employees and employers alike, these changes are likely to open up new opportunities and help to create a new landscape for 2018.

Across the whole of the professional services sector, business support roles remain buoyant – where earlier on in 2017 we saw a trend towards the entry and junior end of the market, we are now seeing more senior end roles coming through as well, mostly through newly created positions or natural attrition. Candidate supply remains a challenge, but more ‘passive’ candidates are approaching the Business Support team at Ambition to discuss career progression, development and new challenges, all of which is positive news.


As always, the legal sector continues to struggle with a short supply of candidates – particularly experienced legal secretaries and document production technicians, both of which remain in high demand. Outside of legal, good quality candidates are still hard to come by, however, with firms now being more open minded to candidates with experience outside of professional services, candidate flow is increasing.


We are confident that the business support market will continue to remain buoyant and competition for candidates will remain high. Due to the restructuring programmes currently underway, we anticipate temporary and fixed term contract roles to increase and there to be a continuation in passive candidates approaching us to evaluate their options in light of the interesting times ahead for the sector. 


Move as quickly as you can – don’t let a slow decision-making process be the reason you lose your candidate of choice – good quality candidates are on average interviewing at 3 or 4 firms; move quickly to secure the right candidate for you.

Engage candidates – it is key to work with us to engage candidates that you are interviewing and to help them get a real feeling not only for the role and the people they would be working with, but for your culture, values and future goals. Remember the interview process is a 2-way thing and candidates that are interviewing for several firms need to feel an attachment to YOUR business; work with us to help us paint a picture of what a career with you means to prospective candidates.


Always be prepared – give real thought prior to attending interviews about what really resonates with you in respect of the role you are being considered for and the company you are meeting. It is important for firms to truly believe that you want to work for THEM and that you can add long term value.

Think carefully about your motivators – Before you even start your job search, it is key to really know why you are looking for a new role – a simple ‘I’m bored’ or ‘I want progression’ isn’t enough – dig deep and understand what that new challenge needs to offer you and what that progression looks like for you – it means we can help you target your search more closely.

BD, Marketing & Communications Market Insights Q4 2017

Despite the usual slow-down in activity across the holiday season, we still saw high job numbers and a shortage of candidates and there seems to be no sign of this letting up. Shortages are particularly acute at executive to middle-management level across business development & marketing.  

One of the noticeable side effects of a candidate short market has been the large increase of people receiving multiple offers across multiple firms as well as receiving counter offers from their existing employers as firms fight it out for the best available talent. Whilst this can be desirable for candidates, even more care needs to be taken around selecting the right opportunities for the right reasons. 

Overall we have also seen recruitment processes take longer. Whilst the holiday season will have exacerbated this, firms are still placing more rigour around their hiring to ensure they get people that can deliver on the commercial needs, particularly those that are partner or client facing. Those firms that have been able to move processes quickly and articulate the opportunity and benefits early in a process have typically had greater success at securing talent.


Throughout the last three months, we have seen an increase in communications role in the legal sector. These have been a step away from your traditional PR & media roles and instead more focussed on internal communications and/or driving thought leadership campaigns. This follows the trend we saw in some of the management consultancies at the beginning of the year.

In accountancy & advisory firms we are still seeing a drive on hiring sales staff which are client facing and typically commission based. In addition, BD & marketing roles that are more sector / practice aligned, that are more strategic and work more closely with the partners to help drive revenue and client growth.

We have also seen an increase in regional opportunities, typically in locations such Birmingham, Bristol & Manchester as firms continue to look at alternative locations to London. This has created further and more senior opportunities for those individuals in the regions but also to those individuals in London that may have previously felt London was the only viable option to establish their professional services BD & marketing careers.


Early signs suggest a busy end to the year as most firms are still making replacement hires where there has been churn or in a lot of case are still looking to expand certain areas of their marketing, BD and communications functions. We’ve also seen a number of teams go through various degrees of restructure as they look for the right blend of skillsets and personal in teams. Client relationship management, communications and content roles are all expected to be high on the agenda together with the high volume of opportunities we expect across BD and bids.

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