Senior Finance Recruiting Trends 2021

UK Finance Recruitment Trends 2021
Posting date:18 Jan 2021

Businesses have been transformed one way or another by the disruption of Covid-19 and senior finance professionals will have had varying challenges and priorities to contend with over the last year, depending on the industry sector they operate in.

But what is clear from our conversations with CFOs and FD’s across the board, is that they’ve had to reimagine financial plans and processes to steady operations in the near term (that many would argue remained unquestioned or unchanged prior to the Covid-19 crisis) and guide decision making for the future. 

Senior finance jobs in demand 

So, as finance teams re-set priorities amidst ongoing economic uncertainty in 2021 – what roles, expertise and skills do employers need and want from senior finance professionals this year?

1. Financial Modelling, and Financial Planning & Analysis  

Finance leaders continue to engage in scenario modelling and are building flexibility into their planning and forecasting cycles. Planning and review cycles at the peak of the pandemic in 2020 were sped up out of necessity and for many finance functions that pace has now become habit. Finance teams continue to shift toward quarterly (or more often, if needed) planning and review cycles.

We have seen this imperative translated to increased demand for finance professionals with Financial Modelling, FP&A, Business Partnering, Financial Analysis and Reporting expertise.  

Financial modelling along with the accurate analysis and interpretation of business-wide internal, and macroeconomic external data, is essential for providing the foresight needed to inform strategic decision-making in these unprecedented times. As such, the improvement of performance reporting is an on-going focus for finance leaders as they seek to accelerate and help C-Suite decision-making.

To this end, we have heard more talk of finance teams using ‘data rooms’. These cloud-based data analytics systems sit on an ERP and provide self-serve tools, for the analysis of internal and external data, to help inform strategic decision-making.

As such, senior finance professionals with analytical and business partnering skills will remain in high demand throughout 2021. 

1   2. Cost control & business case analysis

Cashflow is of course vital for any organisation to be able to sustain itself however, where businesses have seen a significant decline in revenues cash isn’t just king - it’s critical for survival.

Actions to preserve cash have included making redundancies, taking advantage of Government schemes, placing staff on furlough, introducing temporary hiring freezes, salary reductions and cuts on discretionary spending.

As such, cashflow modelling, minimising old debt and cash preservation will remain priorities for finance teams as the world around us continues to evolve in 2021.

Although cashflow modelling is still very much a key focus for many, others that have experienced growth throughout the pandemic (online retailers for example) have had to be careful not to overtrade or make bad investment decisions that may only result in short-term gains.

As such, senior finance professionals with expertise in cost control, business case modelling and banking stakeholder management will continue to be highly sought after this year. 

3. Digital transformation & process improvement 

There has been an increase in discussions within our senior finance network of project work being driven by the need and desire to adopt intelligent automation.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has become increasingly prevalent in the Finance Transformation space as an effective way of optimising repetitive processes and enhancing finance functions by unlocking true ‘human value'. For example, using ‘bots’ on a finance system for invoice matching.

As such, there will be less demand for transactional BAU finance roles and more for system implementation roles, project-based roles and business partners who can make the finance department more efficient and effective in the year ahead. 

Top 5 accountancy & finance jobs 2021

Here’s our list of the top five, in demand, senior accountancy and finance jobs for 2021:

1. Financial Controller

2. FP&A Manager

3. Financial Modeller/Analyst

4. Financial Reporting

5. Finance Business Partner 

Who’s hiring permanent & interim finance professionals?

Unsurprisingly, hiring intentions across all sectors are far more muted this year with the number of applications to every role advertised significantly on the rise. A result brought about by more candidates on the market and the removal of geographical/logistical limitations due to increased remote working.

However, businesses that did well and experienced growth last year, such as online retailers and consulting firms, are continuing to hire permanent finance professionals in preparation for yet more growth.

Employers are increasingly having to make hiring decisions and onboard talent 100% remotely. As such, they've been much more risk adverse and focused on securing outstanding references - although overall time to hire has actually reduced. We are now seeing the end-to-end recruitment process taking over a week less than it did in the first half of 2020 when the first impacts of the pandemic were felt.

Additionally, interims already on assignment are increasingly being pulled into project work which often leads to contract extension - a trend likely to continue this year. 

Candidate expectations

The exceptional senior finance candidates we speak to expect their safety, wellbeing and work-life balance to be taken seriously by prospective employers. Some candidates are not happy with how their employers have handled the Covid-19 crisis and don’t feel they’ve been supported in the right way.

As such, many will only consider new roles where employers can offer job security and demonstrate that have been able to keep staff morale, engagement and productivity high in a remote working environment.

Candidates are keen to understand how sensitive a prospective employer has been to their workforce throughout the pandemic and what the ‘getting back to the office’ message is. They expect flexible working, excellent virtual communication technology and good communication practices from senior leadership.

We expect more movement in 2021 as senior finance professionals, who were biding their time throughout the initial uncertainty of the pandemic, once again look for new permanent opportunities to progress their careers.

How can we help?

If you are job searching in these difficult times, and potentially interviewing from home, there are lots of things we can help you with to prepare. We have plenty of career advice guides we can share with you. Everything from CV tips, to developing your personal online brand and video interviewing advice

If you would like any of our career advice guides, or want to discuss any of our current interim or permanent senior finance opportunities with a recruiting expert please do not hesitate to get in touch

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