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COVID-19: How it affected my maternity leave, my business and changed my focus!

With many returning to work in the office, and new patterns of working emerging across the employment landscape, the Director Team here at Pro-Recruitment Group are sharing their experiences and insights around the returning to work post COVID-19 Alison Humphries, Board Director, shares her experience of returning to the workplace after maternity leave, and rediscovering the unprecedented new ways of working. Alison: I am one of the owners of Pro-Recruitment, I have been in the business for 13 years and been in the working world for 20 years without ever really having time off. I went straight from education to work, even in my teen years I worked on weekends. Other than a 2-week holiday or a few extra days over the Christmas period I am admittedly a bit of a self-confessed workaholic! In October 2019 as I walked out of the office I was about to embark on a new journey through maternity leave…I was excited, I was nervous, I was scared. I was about to have a baby, my body, my heart and my head were about to be turned upside-down and on top of that I had to relinquish control of my business . To say this was going to be hard was an understatement, as i've been involved throughout the whole 'Pro-Journey', but after working with so many experienced consultants and developing and training a knowledgeable Management Team, I knew it was being left in good hands. Fast-forward to January 2020 I’d given birth to a beautiful little girl called Charlotte, everything was starting to get back to normal and I was feeling like my old self. Everything at work was going so well, I had been into the office and all of my teams were reporting success. As an owner of the business I was keen to know how the company was performing (that’s the workaholic in me), so I had committed to attend every Board Meeting from January onwards and I was so pleased that things were going so well. Maternity leave wasn’t so bad…I booked myself and my daughter onto swimming lessons, rhythm time, baby sensory…you name it we had signed up for it. It was important to me that Charlotte was sociable from day one and that I made some mummy friends in the local area. My focus slowly changed and allowed me to realign myself from the workaholic and enjoy being a mother. The Unthinkable During the week we would stay at our flat in London and at the weekend, we would head to a place that we had recently bought in the Midlands as it was close to my family. On March the 15th I waved my other half off to work. Unexpectedly I got a call at midday, he was coming home that evening and working from home indefinitely. The UK was being hit hard by COVID-19, it wasn’t going away and businesses across the country were telling people to work from home. Luckily for us at Pro-Group, we already had the infrastructure in place for us to make that swift move without causing to much disruption to our day-to-day work. Pro-Recruitment made this decision on March 15th and then what was to follow was unthinkable. We went into lockdown on March 23rd. The range of emotions that followed included fear, anxiety and dread. I had brought a baby into the world and this was our generation's war. Were we going to survive, how serious was all of this if the world was now in lockdown. Pro-Group was impacted heavily, like everyone else in the UK, we were moved to reduce our team size, we had to think strategically, we had to act fast, we had no idea how long this was going to last and if we were even going to have a business at the end of this. I was being informed of decisions that were being made, furlough schemes that we were using and many other things that were impacting our business and we had no control over any of it. I wanted to be involved in calls, decisions, meetings that were loaded with information, but I also had a baby that was breastfeeding, teething and was struggling to sleep - finding this balance was challenging, but upon reflecting, it feels like an accomplishment to balance work and life as this extreme level. How could we make this a more positive experience? We had to make this a positive experience, it became apparent as places like Wuhan started to ease their lockdown that this wasn’t going to last forever, we would come out of the other side. I took advantage of the time that we had as a new family of 3. My partner was there for every bath time and bedtime, he was there when we were having a bad day of crying just to ease things for me, even if it was only for half an hour so I could shower and have a cup of tea. We took advantage of the late summer evenings and beautiful weather; we have transformed our garden and I have become somewhat a pair of “green fingers”. We made time for each other and made every evening a time to cook, talk and enjoy dinner together. We became really close to our neighbours and would now consider them friends. All of these things would be interrupted ordinarily by work, travel and other outside factors. August came around, before I knew it I was thinking about heading back to work on 1st September. Our business had halved, I had relocated and life was so different. I had to put Charlotte into nursery and think of a back to work plan. Given the amount that I had been in touch with Pro-Group whilst I had been on maternity leave we started talking about my return fairly early on. I had a plan, a strategy and lots of time to think about how we could get out of the other side of this pandemic. Pro-Group had been excellent in considering my return to work I have come back to work 3 days a week and 1 day is working from home. I have the full support of my co-Directors and walking back into the office on Tuesday 1st September was daunting. It felt as if it was my first day at school again, I was nervous, had I forgotten how to do this? Turns out I haven’t thankfully, in fact I am even more focussed now than I have ever been. With only 3 days a week at work every minute counts. I have to be extremely productive on those days, I have time on the train to work and think of ways in which I can help my team, I am refreshed when I get to work and I feel like I have a new found energy and enthusiasm to help my company out of a slow market and back to winning ways. ​In Summary Maternity leave was completely interrupted by lockdown and COVID-19, but I tried to make the very best out of a very disruptive situation. I don’t feel like I have stood still for six months, the world hasn’t passed me by, I have had time to re-energise, re-focus and be in a better mindset coming out of this. Whilst it saddens me that the business I have helped to build for 13 years has changed dramatically, I have managed to better my personal life in a way I hadn’t imagined I would. In my opinion, flexible working and taking into account a good work-life balance and a happy home life is the most important thing in the world and allows you to be at your best when you leave your house in the morning ready to face whatever the world throws at you. For advice and information about returning to work after maternity leave, or for a more detailed discussion with Alison about her experience, email or call on 020 7269 6312


March 2020: Finance Movers and Shakers

Stay up-to-date with the movers and shakers in the finance sector. Here are the key movements in March 2020: EY have announced the appointment of Hywel Ball as EY UK & Ireland Regional Managing Partner and UK Chair, effective 1st July 2020. Ball will be responsible for leading the business in the UK and Ireland, succeeding Steve Varley, who has been appointed as the first EY Global Vice Chair – Sustainability. Thomas Westcott has appointed Ian Pring as Partner based in the firm’s Plymouth office. Pring has joined following a 30-year career at PKF Francis Clark, where he was Director of the firm’s Property and Wealth teams. UHY Hacker Young have appointed Tracey Moore as Head of Charities and Not-for-Profit. She takes over from Subarna Banerjee who has headed the group for the last five years. Moore joined UHY Hacker Young in 2019 from BDO and has over 20 years’ experience working in the not-for-profit sector. Hugo Parson has joined Deloitte as a Partner to lead its Origination team for Private Equity. Parson was previously Global Head of Origination for Private Equity at EY, where he worked for over seven years. Prior to this Parson worked at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan. Dominic Treays has been appointed as Commercial Director (Global Business Services – Tax & Accounting) at TMF Group. He joins from Cragus Group in Dubai where he was Managing Director and spent 12 years. For more information about this article, or to speak to Callum about your recruiting needs or Finance jobs in London or Nationwide, contact him on 020 7269 6369 or Back to Finance Movers & Shakers Archive >>


Regional Accountancy Practices – The Search for Accountants & Auditors Continues

COVID-19 has undoubtedly influenced the economy with much of the UK working from home and jobs, as we know them, rapidly adapting to this change. However, regional accountancy practices have been using methods of agile and flexible working for years, with lots of opportunity to work from home. Whilst working entirely remotely is somewhat in untested territory, accountancy practices have adapted swiftly and efficiently enabling the transition to be as smooth as possible. Agile working in Regional Accountancy Practices With most of the country currently working from home, agile working has been thrust into the forefront of employment. Employers and employees alike are still adjusting to the transition, with methods of communication, adapting to the virtual space, and self-discipline being key. Regional firms have long been offering flexible working policies with most already offering the opportunity to work from home – even across audit. This makes them well-suited to people with other commitments, such as return to work parents who need to accommodate for term times and the school run. Much of my client portfolio across Berkshire and Surrey offer flexible working arrangements, with perhaps 3 or 4 days in the office alongside working from home and remote working. Whilst the current situation surrounding lockdown and social distancing is not the norm, accountancy practices across the UK have shown “resilience, flexibility and above all the need to protect their staff while delivering the necessary services to ensure their clients survive” (Accountancy Daily, 23 Mar 2020). Recruitment Continues I work closely with accountancy practices across Surrey and Berkshire, many of which have had agile working policies in place for years, and for many of these firms, recruitment has not been put on hold. Currently, I am closely working with Top 15, Mid-Tier and smaller accountancy practices on urgent roles across accounts and audit. Some of the roles I am currently recruiting for: Audit and Accounts Manager – Slough Audit Team Leader – Leatherhead Outsourcing Senior Manager – Reading Accounts Assistant Manager/ Manager – Reading Audit Senior – Oxford Whilst times may seem uncertain, accountancy practices continue to recruit and stand strong in the face of isolation and social distancing. Now is the perfect time to update your CV and get a head start within the market. If you have decided that you would like a stronger work-life balance, whether this be by cutting down your commute, working from home or having flexible working hours, working regionally would be the ideal choice. If you would be interested in a confidential chat surrounding the opportunities Pro-Finance are currently recruiting for, please do get in contact with Jordanne Napier on 0207 269 6353 or


60 Seconds With: Richard Baker, Audit & Advisory Partner at Crowe UK

Richard Baker is an Audit Partner at national audit, tax, advisory and risk firm, Crowe. Richard joined the firm as a Trainee at the Walsall office in 1997, qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in 2001. Richard is now a Partner based in the Thames Valley office, managing a portfolio of clients including SMEs, international businesses and listed companies across a variety of sectors and on local, national and international levels. Richard speaks with Jordanne Napier, Consultant at Pro-Finance, about working at Crowe UK, the first thing he notices in an interview, and offers advice for people looking to progress their career in audit. Tell us about yourself, how your career started and what you do at Crowe. I found that I enjoyed accounting at sixth-form college and, after accepting that I wouldn’t become a pilot or astronaut, I joined a small firm in the West Midlands as a Trainee Auditor. I studied for the AAT qualification and learnt how to prepare accounts from records of varying quality. I then joined Crowe’s Walsall office (now in Oldbury), which was experiencing significant growth. 22 years or so later, I find myself based in Reading at Crowe’s Thames Valley office, at which I head up the Audit team. How do Crowe differentiate themselves in the market? At Crowe, we pride ourselves on helping our clients make smart decisions that create lasting value. We do this by offering clients a range of tailored services which are delivered by our multi-disciplinary teams. Our deep sector knowledge and experience means we ensure clients are provided with the right expertise to meet their needs. Close working relationships really are at the heart of our effective service deliveries. How big is your team and what advice would you give anyone applying to be part of the team? We have a substantial team made up of talented individuals who possess an extensive range of experience, knowledge and expertise. This enables us to provide clients with a wide service offering and the right person for the job. In a candidate, we look for someone who is willing to learn and work collaboratively with colleagues as part of a team. They must always be prepared to do the right thing. How would your team describe you? You should probably ask them! I would probably say helpful and conscientious. What advice would you give to your younger self? I would say to relax more and take time to recharge. When you interview someone for your organisation, what is the first thing you notice about a person and what does it tell you? Their greeting - is it warm, friendly and professional? That tells me the first impression they will give to our clients. What challenges, personally or professionally, do you think the next generation of finance professionals face? Adapting to rapid technological developments. Change has been significant over my career, making remote working possible, but I feel we are on the cusp of something even more significant. How do you think the role of Director/Partner has changed over the years? Some of my clients think I spend a lot of time on the golf course – if they saw me play I doubt they would continue to think that! I think the role has become more technical over time, with increased regulation, but the fundamentals are still there – you need to be able to build internal and external relationships. Clear communication is also more important than ever. Any final words of advice for people looking to progress their career? Focus on where you want to get to, but be patient at the same time - you will probably be working for 50 years! Thanks for your time, and as a little treat for all of our readers - do you have any guilty pleasures you can share with us? I have a really variable taste in music, which some may find surprising! I listen to virtually anything, from classical to rap. For more information on this article, please contact Jordanne Napier on 020 7269 6353 or


February 2020: Finance Movers and Shakers

Stay up-to-date with the movers and shakers in the finance sector. Here are the key movements in February 2020: James Cowper Kreston is shaking up its management structure with a joint managing partnership model. Alex Peal and Sue Staunton have been elected as joint Managing Partners with effect from 1 May 2020, replacing Robert Holland who is stepping down after six years. This marks a significant shift from the traditional approach to running an accountancy firm, using a hybrid management model to grow the partnership KPMG has completed the sale of its former pensions advisory practice, marking one of the first major steps by a Big Four firm to separate out non-audit work. KPMG UK’s current Pensions Partners have been backed by private equity firm Exponent, which is believed to have paid some £200m. Wilkins Kennedy has appointed Paul Barwick as a Forensic Accounting Partner. Barwick, who has more than 13 years’ experience in forensic accounting, joins from Mazars where he spent seven years, and earlier in his career spent six years with Charles River Associates. Quantuma Restructuring has appointed Nick Parsk as an Appointmenttaking Director in the Thames Valley region. Parsk joins Quantuma from Wilkins Kennedy, where he spent 18 months as a Director, specialising in corporate insolvency and restructuring across the South of England. Tracey Moore joins UHY Hacker Young as Head of Charities and Not-for-Profit. Moore previously worked at BDO as Director for Charities and Not-for-Profit. For more information about this article, or to speak to Callum about your recruiting needs or Finance jobs in London or Nationwide, contact him on 020 7269 6369 or Back to Finance Movers & Shakers Archive >>


Women in Finance - Improving Gender Diversity

The finance and accountancy sectors are typically associated with a certain stereotype, and the gender pay gap has received bad press in recent years. However, accountancy firms are making inroads to improve gender equality within finance, and we have seen changes to working patterns and expectations of those in senior positions within the sector. Women are being encouraged to progress to Partnership and Directorship level within finance practices and although there are still improvements to be made, it is clear that as a sector we are moving in the right direction. By law, companies, charities and organisations in the public sector of 250 employees or more are required to publish their gender pay gap figures. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said that enforcing companies to report their pay gaps is not enough to eliminate pay disparities - they have argued that employers also need to publish their action plans with specific deadlines and targets alongside the data. Historically the corporate world has been dominated by a certain stereotype, which has received a high level of bad press in recent years. The BBC were the first broadcaster to publish their gender pay gap in 2017 which showed a median gap of 9.3% and by 2019, they had reduced this gap to 6.7%. Due to the bad press surrounding the subject, companies are improving their diversity and inclusion offering and are working towards becoming more responsible about gender equality. The HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter has been signed by more than 350 firms employing over 880,000 people, covering banks, insurance companies, investment firms and accountancy practices, as well as the ICAEW. Signatories commit to supporting the progression of women into senior roles in the finance sector by focusing on the executive pipeline and mid-tier level, and publicly reporting their progress in meeting those targets. The ICAEW, for example, has committed to having 40% women in senior management by March 2020, and two of the Big 4 have achieved gender parity with 50% women on the UK boards of EY and KPMG. With businesses under the spotlight, there has undoubtedly been an emphasis in recent years on encouraging women to progress into senior positions within the finance and accountancy sector, with many practices providing leadership training and coaching for individual development. In the audit and accounting sectors, just because you make Partner level this no longer means that a healthy work-life balance is unrealistic. The focus is on the quality of work and you are not expected to be in all hours of the day, and we are increasingly seeing accountancy practices offering working from home and flexible working policies to fit around school hours and term time. With this, the expectations of being a Partner in practice are gradually changing too. At Pro-Finance, we are speaking to more and more female Partners and Directors who are working 3-4 days a week, with a better work-life balance on offer. With increased agile working and the opportunity to have a healthy work-life balance, it is more common to have a family life without it being detrimental to your career. This is all helping women to take their career further within practice. Whereas in the past some women might have moved in-house for the flexible benefits and potentially fewer expectations at the senior level, there are a wide range of practices who are making inroads to improve this. Here at Pro-Finance, we are also finding more female candidates asking questions about their interviewers. From a company perspective, it is important to make sure you have considered the demographic of your interview panel - lots of people see a diverse board as a reflection of your business, so make sure you are not ostracising excellent candidates before they are even through the door at interview stage. There are still improvements to be made in terms of achieving gender parity in the finance and accountancy sectors, and the gender pay gap remains a problem that is not yet resolved. However, it is clear that recent years have seen companies making inroads to improve this, and this is certainly the case for women in finance. Pro-Group is an inclusive employer and we are proud to have a female heavy employee base, with 50% women in management and on the board. Looking at the companies and finance professionals we work with on a daily basis, women are being offered more and more opportunities to progress to senior levels in practice and going forward into 2020, we hope to see more of this. For more information on this article, contact Kate Green on 020 7269 6363 or


How Will the New IR35 Rules Affect the Charity and Not-for-Profit Sector?

The government has confirmed changes to off-payroll working (IR35) rules, which will come into play from 6th April 2020. The new tax legislation will affect the private sector, including numerous charities and not-for-profit organisations, and could result in contractors paying 25% more in tax. The last changes to IR35 were introduced in April 2017 and were rolled out to the public sector to combat avoidance of employment tax and National Insurance contributions by contractors who chose to provide their professional services through an intemediary company, such as personal service or limited companies. Essentially, it was a way to prevent workers from "disguising" themselves as freelance contractors as a way to pay less tax, when in practice they are performing the same role as full-time employees. Previously, IR35 only applied to the public sector, meaning the majority of charities were not affected by the tax legislation rules - with the exception of high profile not-for-profit organisations including many universities, museums and public bodies. However, a significant number of charities and not-for-profit organisations will need to take action before the 6th April to comply with the requirements of the new IR35 rules. Until now in the third sector, it has been the contractor's responsibility to determine whether they fall within IR35. However, with the extension or IR35 to the private and voluntary sectors in a couple of months time, employers will be responsible for assessing whether contractors need to pay income tax and national insurance contributions. In a nutshell, as explained by Seb Maley, the Chief Executive of IR35 Adviser and Insurance Company Qdos Contractor, "contractors will not be able to set their own tax status unless they are engages by a 'small' or private sector company. This duty will fall on the medium or large business they are engaged by". Going forward, charities will no longer be able to assume that because they engage a contractor via a limited company that they can pay that company gross for the contractor's services. Instead, charities will need to consider whether the contractor is working in an employee capacity or only for specific projects. If working in an employee capacity, contractors will need to be pay the same PAYE tax as an ordinary full-time employee - in reality, this will include anyone who is employed to cover holiday, maternity or sick leave. Those who are employed to work on specific projects will retain the right to be paid outside of the IR35 rules. Charities and not-for-profits must meet two of the three thresholds over two accounting periods to fall under the new IR35 rules. These thresholds are an annual turnover of £10.2 million or more, a balance sheet total of more than £5.1 million, and having over 50 employees. The Charity Tax Group (CTG) has warned that charities need to be aware of the rule change, as even if they do not fall within the turnover threshold they may meet the other two. Richard Bray, Vice Chairman at the CTG and Finance Regulatory & Taxes Manager at Cancer Research UK has said "it is also important to appreciate that these changes are not about tax compliance alone, but could result in significant increases in a charity's cost base". For example, the new rules could mean that a charity needs to allocate extra costs to update and improve its payroll systems. These new tax legislation rules have left some contractors worried that companies will take a risk-averse approach to IR35 and unfairly or inaccurately place them inside IR35, meaning they will pay more tax. Before the new IR35 rules are rolled out on the 6th April this year, charities and not-for-profits will need to assess their relationships with personal service companies, and ensure that they are paying their contractors in the correct way and deducting PAYE in line with HMRC rules. For more information on this article or for help recruiting the right finance professionals into your not-for-profit organisation, contact Matt Davidson on 020 7269 6323 or matt


January 2020: Finance Movers and Shakers

Stay up-to-date with the movers and shakers in the finance sector. Here are the key movements in January 2020: Crowe has appointed Julia Poulter as a specialist Not-For-Profit Partner. She has over 15 years’ experience working with charities and social housing providers, offering both assurance and advisory services. Poulter previously spent over six years with BDO and before that nearly 12 years with PKF. Mercer & Hole has appointed Dominic Dumville as a Corporate Advisory Partner. Dumville, a licensed insolvency practitioner, qualified accountant and corporate finance professional, joins the firm from Haslers, where he was an Insolvency Partner. Jeffreys Henry has promoted Bhimal Hira to Business Development Partner, effective 6th January 2020. Hira joined the firm in 2008. Justin Randall, Managing Partner at Jeffreys Henry LLP, commented: “It is highly unusual for non-accountants to be promoted to Partner, but this is a testimony to the impact Bhimal has had at Jeffreys Henry LLP. Roffe Swayne has appointed Alex Temlett as an Audit Partner. Temlett joins the firm from Rawlinson & Hunter and has over 18 years’ combined experience there and at Ernst & Young (EY) where he trained. He is a member of ICAS and a CIOT associate. He has particular experience in the pharmaceutical sector. UHY Hacker Young has appointed Robert Kidson as Managing Director in the Corporate Finance team. Kidson joins from MHA MacIntyre Hudson, where he spent over four years and was Partner and Managing Director in Corporate Finance. For more information about this article, or to speak to Callum about your recruiting needs or Finance jobs in London or Nationwide, contact him on 020 7269 6369 or Back to Finance Movers & Shakers Archive >>


10 Perks of Working for a Corporate Services Provider

You're a qualified accountant deciding which career route to take - are practice or industry the only options? If neither of these options seem quite right for you, you might want to consider working for a corporate services provider. These high-profile companies are a perfect option for someone who wants the commercial aspect of an industry role alongside the variety of working in practice. So, why work for a corporate services provider? 1) Bridge the gap into industry If you want to work in a commerce and industry role, experience at a corporate services provider can offer the perfect opportunity to bridge the gap. Industry roles, as a general rule, only take on finance professionals with strong mid-tier, Top 10, or Big 4 experience. This is mainly due to the fact that working within a firm of this size, you often gain experience with large international clients which is highly-sought after by commercial companies. On the other hand, global providers are happy to hire people with experience from smaller independent or boutique firms. This means that if you don't have experience working at a mid or top-tier firm, working for a corporate services provider can give you the experience you need to take that next step into an in-house role. 2) Industry culture with the variety of practice work Working for a corporate services provider, you get the best of both worlds! You get the opportunity to think innovatively in a commerical business, with a culture similar to what you would find in an industry role. However, some people find that working in industry doesn't suit them, as it can lack variation with no client interactions. If you join a global provider you get the variety of work that comes with a wide portfolio of clients but with the coveted industry culture. 3) Bridge the gap to the Big 4/Top 10 Just like a role at a global provider can bridge the gap into a commerical company, it can also act as a step up into a top-tier firm. It can be notoriously difficult to secure a role at a top-tier firm, particularly one of the Big 4, so sometimes it's a good idea to look down other routes you could follow in order to reach your end goal. Should your long-term career goal be to work for one of the Big 4 or a Top 10 firm, the variety of work and portfolio of clients you will work with at a corporate services provider will expand your experience and skillset and give you that leg-up into a top-tier accounting firm. 4) Salary/Benefits The salary you will receive working at a corporate services provider will tend to be higher than the salary you would typically receive at an accountancy firm. You will receive a significantly higher salary for the same level role, but you will gain more experience and receive better training. These companies also offer excellent benefits across the board, typically including an excellent bonus scheme, private medical insurance, discounted gym membership, technology hire purchase scheme, travel discounts, interest free season ticket loans and a pension scheme. 5) Excellent training and development Corporate services providers tend to have excellent training programmes in place, particularly for juniors or those relatively new to the industry. The training you receive will be on par with the programmes offered at the Big 4, meaning you will be able to get the most out of the early years in your career and develop your personal skills and technical ability to the best standard. Not only will this improve your career short-term and see you progress at a fast pace, but having excellent training behind you will be invaluable when it comes to looking for a new job. 6) Work-life balance The typical working hours at these companies are 9am-5:30pm, which are standard hours for the city of London in general. When you compare this to the working hours of some practice roles which are heavily client-focused meaning hours can be unpredictable, a role in a corporate services provider can offer you the client exposure without the long hours. Many of these companies also offer flexible and agile working arrangements, including the option to work from home. This all contributes towards a healthy work-life balance, with regular working hours allowing you to spend more time on your personal life outside of work, or an agile working pattern that suits your lifestyle and personal commitments.​ 7) Clients Working in industry typically means you have no client interaction as you fully immerse yourself in one business, which suits some people as it allows you to get closer to the business and look at one commercial company in its entirety. On the other hand, working for an accounting firm will see you specialising in one practice area and working with a wide range of clients. If you join a corporate services provider, you will find yourself somewhere inbetween the two. You will have the opportunity to work with a wide range of high-profile clients across various sectors, including FTSE 500 and AIM listed companies with turnovers of up to 400 million, while also working in a commercial role. 8) Technical knowledge Due to the wide portfolio of clients you will work with and the range of sectors you will work across, your work will inevitably be complex. This, in turn, means that your technical knowledge will grow in complexity, and you will expand your specialised skillset. 9) International opportunities If you are looking for a role that includes international travel, then working for a corporate services provider could be a great option for you. Most London-based global providers actually have their Headquarters in Amsterdam and depending on the company you join, you will typically find they have offices in a large number of countries, meaning secondments to international offices are very common. 10) Offices and facilities Last but not least, these companies always have amazing London offices! If you want to really experience the best city working life, these offices tend to be centrally located with state-of-the-art facilities and investments in technology. So, if amazing offices will swing it for you, it's just another reason why working for a corporate services provider could be the ideal move for you! For more information on this article, or to find out more about working for a corporate services provider, contact Aaron Scott on 020 7269 6340 or


Corporate Finance: 2019 Review and What to Expect in 2020

2019 Review: 2019 was another strong year for the Corporate Finance market. As MHA Tait Walker states, at times it has been an unpredictable and slightly 'nervous' market place, but this hasn't stopped deals from completing. Based on 2019 Q3 deal statistics, 2019 saw an approximate 16% increase on 2018 levels across disposals, mergers and acquisitions, and development capital and fundraising. Despite the challenging deal environment that presented itself in 2019 for corporate financiers and invesment bankers, deals remained robust across certain sectors including Consumer, Healthcare and TMT. The same can be said for the recruitment side of the Corporate Finance market - the past year has undoubtedly been challenging and unpredictable at times, but all in all, the market has flourished. Here at Pro-Finance, we did see a few Corporate Finance boutiques postponing their recruitment processes, but these were mainly smaller clients who were at greater financial risk. Overall across all firm sizes, figures to date show that recruitment activity levels have been maintained, which has been fuelled particularly by UK companies seeking international opportunities. 2020 Prediction: The uncertainty of recent years will hopefully cease now that the near future of the British Government has been determined, with the General Election giving a majority to the Conservative Party. With the end in sight and the deadline for Brexit fast approaching, we predict that economic conditions will improve allowing businesses to grow and develop, and private equity investments will increase alongside the UK's political and economic state. This is reaffirmed by Adam Avigdori, co-founder of BlackRock Income and Growth Trust - "The employment market is strong, with underlying growth in both nominal and real wages for the first time in recent years. Combined with increased fiscal spending, we believe the UK economic outlook is more encouraging". The speed of Corporate Finance transactions are also likely to increase in the coming year as the UK has remained attractive for foreign investors, but the fluctuation of the pound inevitably slowed down deals in 2019. With economic stability this is expected to improve, and the volume of new deal opportunities as well as the time taken to close transactions will improve over the course of 2020. Here at Pro-Finance, we have seen a rise in demand for specialised Corporate Finance professionals within a range of different sectors. This is the case across investment banks, boutique firms and large accounting firms. We have also seen a growing need for experienced senior M&A professionals, as well a continued demand for Transaction Services professionals at all levels of experience from Associate all the way up to Director, which we will see throughout this year as well. The smaller boutique firms who postponed their recruitment last year as a result of political and financial uncertainty have picked up their search for talent right away in 2020. Despite the European trading impact of Brexit being unknown, these firms have resumed their recruitment activity - we predict that lively January is a sign of things to come in the Corporate Finance market this year. For more information on this article, or to speak to James Thompson about your recruiting needs or opportunities in the Corporate Finance market, contact him on 020 7269 6365 or


The Benefits of Working in an Audit Role in Reading

Working in Audit and Accounts in a Reading-based accountancy practice can offer many benefits. While large London firms are often top of the list for finance professionals considering a career move, there are many ways in which working more locally for a regional accountancy firm can offer the same, if not better, benefits as a large firm in the city. Type of Work & Responsibility: With big-city firms, you will often find that your clients are scattered across the UK or even internationally. So, if you are looking for travel and overnight stays with your role you would be well-suited to working in the city. However, if this is not at the top of your list, working in audit in a local practice means you will work with local clients. Firms in the Top 10, Top 20, Top 50 and Big 4 have offices in Reading, so you still get the chance to work with big clients on important and market-leading work, just more locally. Working Hours & Work-Life Balance: Accountancy firms based in Reading tend to have two types of core hours, either 9-5 or 8-4, and the hours are very flexible. Rather than being based in the city where your hours can be based on client pressures, you will often find that working outside of the city of London means not working as late and fewer client pressures that affect your day-to-day working hours. Working close to home means you cut the London commute! You will save the time spent travelling to and from the city, which in turn allows for a better work-life balance as you have more time to spend on your personal life outside of work. The average cost of a monthly travelcard is around 58% lower in Reading compared to London, meaning that you will not only save lots of time on your commute, but also money. A good work-life balance comes with the flexibility of working for a local practice, as opposed to a corporate city firm that might not be able to offer the same degree of flexible or agile working. Working in a regional practice might be well-suited to people with other commitments such as part-time carers or return-to-work parents. A role in a local firm can be perfect when it comes to arranging your work schedule around responsibilities like school runs, with many practices offering on-site parking to make it easier for parents. Local accountancy firms can offer flexible working arrangements, with perhaps 3 or 4 days in the office alongside agile working from home, or a working pattern that suits your personal situation. Salary & Benefits: On top of saving the monthly cost of the commute into London, audit and finance roles based in Reading accountancy firms offer similar salaries to those in the city and bonuses often match those offered in London firms. As well as this, rent in Reading is typically 30-40% lower compared to London, and buying property can be over 50% cheaper than London, meaning your money can go further. When it comes to benefits, packages are largely dependent on the sector and business. Reading-based accountancy firms typically offer excellent policies regarding Time Off in Lieu (TOIL) which is not quite as common in city firms. In general, local practices offer excellent benefits which match those offered in London-based firms, including good study support and registered trainers who can train you within your practice, high pensions, medical care, holiday allowance and more often than not, the same benefits you would receive working in a corporate city firm. Progression & Ease of Finding a New Opportunity: Regional accountancy firms still offer plenty of opportunities to progress and develop, all the way up to Partner if that is your end goal. Working in a London-based Big 4 office you can face a long path to Partner, whereas a smaller local practice can almost offer a fast-track route to Partnership. A role in a regional firm can be positive in several different ways when it comes to new opportunities. Not only can they offer excellent progression routes if you stay with that one firm, but they can also be a good stepping stone into a larger city firm or Big 4 office in London. Or, working locally in Reading might be a good option for you if you have already worked in the city and you are looking for a firm that offers more flexibility, less of a commute, and better suits your lifestyle. Here at Pro-Finance, we work closely with many Big 4, Top 10, Top 20, and boutique accountancy firms based in Reading who are looking for auditors of all levels to join their successful and close-knit teams. As impartial consultants with a wealth of experience, we are well positioned to advise on your next move, so should you wish to discuss how best to structure your next career step, please do get in touch. ​ For more information on this article, or to speak to Jordanne Napier about a move into a finance audit role in Reading, contact her on 020 7269 6353 or


Audit and Accounts Interim: The 6 Advantages of Contracting

In 2019, we saw day rates for Audit and Accounts professionals rise dramatically. Considering the current market with continuous gaps at the senior level we expect 2020 to be the same, and predict more and more contract or temporary roles to be opening up throughout the year. Over the past year, Pro-Finance noted an increase in the number of clients and candidates who are considering contract or temporary employment. We began to ask - why the rise in people exploring their temporary opportunities and the pros of contracting? Whatever the reason, you will certainly find the world of contracting is extremely diverse and can help you develop invaluable skills for the future. Below, we explore the various positives of contracting as an Audit or Accounts professional: 1. Contracting offers flexibility Contracting allows you to choose when you work. Obviously, you must be upfront with your employer, but you can choose assignments which may be full-time, part-time, short-term or long-term projects. It can be the ideal arrangement if you work in Audit or Accounts and are trying to fit your career around childcare or caring for a relative. 2. It allows you to develop your skills Whatever your specialism within the finance, Audit and Accounts sectors, each interim placement will be unique and will require different skills - both technical and personal. You will be able to expand and improve your skill set which will enhance your CV and allow you to develop your own personal progression. 3. It offers exposure When contracting, you will experience many different businesses, environments, and working cultures. This will offer an invaluable insight into where you work best, what best suits you as an individual, and where you might choose if you want a permanent role further down the line in your career. 4. An opportunity to build up your contacts Working at lots of different places and in a wide range of businesses offers you the opportunity to build relationships and make contacts that can help in the future. As well as this, also consider the contacts you make at your recruitment agency who will really get to know you and your strengths with every placement. 5. It could lead to a permanent role Contracting allows both you and the employer and business you are working for to ‘audition’ each other. It is a far safer and less stressful way to see if you like a role and a practice, and can give you an insight into which parts of audit you are best suited to and what aspects of a role you would like to continue with throughout your career. 6. The pay When contracting, you can earn more than the permanent salary offered by working on an increased hourly or day rate. This is often to compensate for the risk and instability associated with a short-term assignment, so if you are looking for a short-term way to save money while buliding up your skillset and experience, contracting could be the right path to take. For the businesses who hire on an interim basis, contractors can offer a valuable and indispensable service on an often short-term basis. It is an ideal solution to hiring challenges such as sickness, maternity leave and increased short-term workload, and even allows them to ‘try before they buy’ when looking to recruit for a permanent role. Here at Pro-Finance, we have developed the flexibility to work alongside candidates and clients whether their needs be either contract or permanent. If you wish to discuss how best to structure your next career step, contact us now. As impartial consultants with a wealth of experience, we are well positioned to advise on your next move. For more information, contact George Tatnell on 020 7269 6357 or



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