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We surveyed more than 1,500 employers to gather data on current hiring trends, changes to learning and development programmes, the impacts of Brexit and the upcoming IR35 regulations, the pandemics influence on salaries and rates, and current skills in demand. We are pleased to be able to present the results for January below:
One thing I’m fortunate to have in my role is almost constant contact with other people. After all it’s my job is to talk to Finance Professionals in the market. It’s through conversations with these individuals that I have gained a real insight into the impact the pandemic has had on Finance Teams, and the challenges and adjustments they have faced to ensure a continued level of service.
The common theme amongst the businesses I’ve spoken to is that whilst challenging, Finance functions have adapted incredibly quickly to the sharp switch to remote working and have utilised video conferencing technologies to continue to operate efficiently. Whether for work or catching up with colleagues at the end of the week for a virtual wine, it’s become part of daily life. It’s clear though, that home working is not without its risks.
One concern for Managers and new hires alike has been recruiting and onboarding during lockdown. I was told that at the beginning of lockdown some businesses simply didn’t have the resources to onboard remotely but have found that by re-engineering their processes they actually now find it better than before. “A video conference (VC) will never replace a face to face but you can make it work and it can be very effective” said a Finance Manager for a large retail bank, whose main concern was being able to provide support to new starters. “[In the office] you’re always near someone who can help you or provide support and I was concerned that we might not be able to offer the level of support we normally would through VC’s”. This led to her ‘Open Zoom’ policy where any of her team could call her at any time and talk through any issue (big or small). “[Again], it’s not quite the same as being able to sit next to someone but it encourages each of us to try and work out problems together and it builds camaraderie”.
A video conference (VC) will never replace a face to face but you can make it work and it can be very effective
I wanted to explore the other side of the coin, so I spoke with a recently employed Financial Accountant who had been onboarded in April. She told me that she had struggled joining a new company during lockdown. “My manager is great but it’s just not the same, I need the facetime. I feel like a pain calling my manager five times a day. The social side is also tough, and I did worry about fitting in virtually over Zoom”.
While home working generally receives a thumbs up from the Finance professionals I’ve spoken with, one Head of Finance for a National Bank told me that concern around burnout of employees was high on the agenda for them. When lockdown kicked in, their trades trebled overnight and in addition to learning to work from home, it was a perfect storm. This led to very long hours for his Finance Team. Speaking with his team he found that like himself, his team were also allocating their morning commute time to work as well as their evening commute. Already that’s two extra hours in the virtual office every day. “So what?” some people will say, or “that’s only an extra couple of hours, that’s nothing!”. However, people by nature need a change of scene every so often and when you’re staring at the same four walls for twenty-four hours a day it can be tough mentally.
My manager is great but it’s just not the same, I need the facetime. I feel like a pain calling my manager five times a day
Though people may approach their day differently, chances are you need that transition period between home, coffee shop and work to wind down or gear up. People use the time to reflect on challenges, take a step back and to be able to view things holistically that can then present solutions you may not have thought of. Furthermore, going out to grab a coffee or heading to the work kitchen can be hugely beneficial to someone’s own wellbeing and motivation. The same Head of Finance also told me that employees haven’t been taking holidays because “there is nowhere they can realistically go”. A holiday is not just about the travel but the mental break, so with many people not taking breaks, this is where burnout is occurring. As a solution, he was keen to make sure his team were strict about the hours they worked and that team members could finish early or take half days as needed to ensure they were rested and motivated. “There is a huge intensity of working from home” he told me, which is something that I resonate with.
I spoke with a CFO of a Brokerage who said that home working, had been largely successful but was quick to point out that not everyone’s situation is the same. “Some may own their own home; others may be in flat shares or have children. We have to be very sensitive to people’s needs”. This led to the business offering office space set-ups for people locally and paying for travel should employees wish to temporarily relocate or if younger staff members wanted to move back home with their parents. In one case the business paid for flights to fly one of their recently joined Accountants back to Australia where she could work remotely. Providing this for their staff, they saw no loss in quality or productivity but quite the opposite, they witnessed an increase in quality and productivity as well as an increase in engagement. Another Finance Director I spoke with mentioned that they had kept their offices open specifically for employees who lived in flat shares.
Some may own their own home; others may be in flat shares or have children. We have to be very sensitive to people’s needs
One of the CFOs of a start-up I spoke with had actually just cancelled the lease on their office “We’re only a small brokerage and we can’t see the possibility returning to the office until the end of 2021 so we paid the exit clause.” This has been common amongst London businesses as according to a survey conducted by CBI and PwC, 74% of Financial Services firms are reviewing their office space needs. Most organisations are looking to either use space differently, get rid of it, or both. And according to a report led by Professor Alan Felstead of Cardiff University most “people are as productive working from home, if not more so”. This of course has an adverse reaction on the local economies but I’m not here to talk about that – see the BBC article here that references this.
While this is only a small sample of some of the conversations I have had, the themes have been consistent, it seems evident that home working can be successful if organisations are mindful of potential pitfalls and maybe office working has changed forever? My clients have been able to adapt with some teething problems but like me, every single person I have spoken with is still ideally looking for some form of presence in a physical office, just maybe not on a 5 day per week basis. After all we are social beings by nature and whether we’re introverts or extroverts we all need some degree of human interaction.
Principal Consultant - Finance & Audit Recruitment
McGregor Boyall Associates Ltd
t: +44 (0)20 7422 9076
We surveyed 1,500 employers to gather data on current hiring trends, returning to the office, skills in demand and the impact the global pandemic is having on salaries and rates. We are pleased to be able to present the results below:
Our Risk, Finance & Compliance Market Insights Report & Salary Guide 2020 provides the latest insights on the market collated by our specialist Risk, Fiance & Compliance Recruitment Teams, and from data collected from surveying our clients and candidates.
It may be an imposing project for insurers, but with the correct recruitment strategy and positive attitude, IFRS 17 could be turned into a big opportunity.
Twenty years in the making, IFRS 17 comes into effect on 1 January 2021. But unlike most New Year’s resolutions, it’s something insurance companies have to take seriously and ensure they’re completely compliant by the time the deadline comes to pass.
Why’s it happened?
IFRS 17 is designed to standardise accounting models, with the goal of providing investors with more useful information that they’ll be able to compare across the industry internationally.
Of course, this will come at a significant cost to businesses which have to implement the changes. Looking on the bright side, it will also provide them with opportunities to modernise.
The impact on insurance
The new standard will have wide-ranging implications for insurance companies. Unsurprisingly, the biggest impact will be on financial reporting. Companies will be forced to develop new policies and procedures, redesign year-end reporting, and store and process more data. It will all have to be rigorously tested, too, to ensure it runs smoothly.
For many companies, keeping up with the new and increased demands will inevitably mean they need to hire more staff with a wide range of skills. But, perhaps most importantly of all, if a company doesn’t have a designated expert with both detailed knowledge of the exact requirements of IRFS 17 and its wider implications, now is definitely the time to find one.
A significant challenge
Finding potential candidates with the right expertise and levels of experience is already proving to be a challenge for businesses. Deloitte is already calling out for qualified people across the globe to bolster its consulting capabilities, and the very fact it is advertising for candidates suggests it is not finding it all plain sailing.
IFRS 17 leads will require an unusual mix of detailed knowledge of financial reporting, stakeholder management and insurance accountancy, topped off with a broad actuarial understanding and strong project management skills. Ideally, they should also have experience of leading companies through transformational change. It’s not difficult to see why these leaders are hard to find, and in high demand once they are.
Which other skills will you need?
The impact of IFRS 17 on recruitment is huge. For candidates with the right knowledge, there’s an excellent opportunity as companies look to snap up those with the required talents.
Technical skills are obviously very important for businesses. IT teams will see a big change as the new data, processes and systems the ruling requires, need to be implemented by someone. Given the opportunity it presents to modernise, skills like process auditing, workflow analysis and workflow automation will be key.
During this process, the value of relevant soft skills shouldn’t be underestimated, either. The control has brought about an unavoidable period of business transformation that needs to be managed in parallel with BAU activities – this requires professionals who are adept at leadership, communication and change management in particular.
While it is a large imposition for many insurers, your approach to IFRS 17 will define the outcome. Recruit the right people to implement the right processes and systems and you could gain a significant advantage on competitors that do the bare minimum.