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We deliver the best recruitment news and advice to the Tax, Legal, Finance, HR and Marketing sectors, including market updates, CV tips, interview advice, and exclusive interviews.

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60 Seconds with: Stephen Joyce, Finance Director, Royal Society of Chemistry

What is the most challenging part of working in the charity sector?   Getting the balance right between being agile, commercial and strategic, while at the same time ensuring good governance and regulatory compliance. Sometimes there can be challenges around ensuring that there is a clear set of priorities that people sign up to and maintaining the discipline to stick to the plan.   What advice would you give to any potential candidate coming to work in the Charity sector? 'Charity' doesn't mean 'fluffy' - you need strong commercial acumen and a clear focus. Approachability, openness and clear communication (verbal and written) are essential skills. You need a strong ability to distill complex, technical issues into simple, clear messages, and the assertiveness and judgment to address problems in a constructive, proportionate manner. Be passionate about the charity's work, and get involved in activities across the organisation. A rewarding and fulfilling career awaits! If you could choose 4 people to come to dinner with you who would they be (living or dead)? Freddie Mercury, Clint Eastwood, Rik Mayall, Jodie Foster If your life were to be made into a film, who would play your character? Jonathan Frakes (Riker out of Star Trek Next Generation). In my 1990s bearded days, I looked uncannily like him. If you were not working as Finance Director for the Royal Society of Chemistry, what would your ideal career be? A rock star (I play drums in a heavy metal band) or a full-time novelist - my debut novel is being published in May 2017 and finding time to write the sequel is proving tricky! Back to 60 Seconds archive >>

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Why do the Public Sector struggle to secure top talent?

With Brexit and another National Election looming in the UK, it would seem perhaps that there has never been a more exciting time to work in the Public Sector. However, year after year organisations continue to feedback that they struggle to attract and retain the right people, leading to real concern across the sector. An experienced Finance Director flippantly made a valid point to me recently in that the Public sector collectively "rarely listens to itself" - decisions are made by high-level ministers who rarely weigh up all the variables before making important decisions, leaving its most important asset (its people) to pick up the pieces. Having spent the last six years recruiting for support staff across every area of the Public Sector, I have seen a number of changes – some positive, and some arguably negative. However, with more jobs than candidates out there, why are employers and recruiters still struggling to find real talent and what are the issues? Poor salary packages One of the biggest challenges the sector has had for years is that as far as remuneration goes, working in the Public Sector at mid-level has never quite managed to truly compete with Private organisations in terms of attracting top talent. Conversely, where some larger Government bodies have been able to offer more attractive salaries, there is an absence of additional incentives such as Car/Travel Allowances, Private Healthcare, and most importantly, bonuses. Interestingly, this is not helped by Public Sector employees continuing to be taxed in the same way a Private employee would be. Could tax-free salaries be a way to make opportunities more attractive? Conversely, CIPD figures have demonstrated that some organisations have spent more annually on contractors, that securing permanent staff which has curtailed their staffing budgets. This suggests processes are more challenging for Public Sector organisations, where there seems to be less of a culture for change, and ‘too many hoops to jump through’, and slow processes in order to achieve it. Short-term and limited budgets Sadly, with so much uncertainty in the sector, this has largely led to organisations struggling to make long-term financial commitments. In turn, this has led to either reliance on contractors (which offers little long-term stability) or a reliance on fixed-term contracts limiting the talent pool. If you are already a permanent employee or an interim contractor on double the daily remuneration, why would you consider a fixed-term-contract? More worryingly, however, history has created a culture of staff cuts, which will always create a negative perception on the sector in general, particularly when organisations are struggling financially. According to the CIPD, pay freezes coupled with a perceived reduction in benefits as a consequence of pension reforms may be responsible for the public sector’s challenge in attracting candidates, with 43% of public-sector respondents citing pay as one of the reasons for their difficulties. Over-reliance on agency staff The over-reliance on interims has, in turn, led to a market where thousands of permanent employees have turned to an interim career to ‘feed the need’. This has clearly had a ‘knock-on effect’ in removing some of the stellar talents from the permanent market, and a cycle where the culture is too regularly on looking at the ‘short-term solution’. Small training budgets Limited budgets available within organisations have prompted a risk-adverse culture where organisations are less likely to invest in commercial talent that can deliver more long-term value, opting for the candidates that have experience of Public Sector processes, procedures and compliance. Bigger training budgets would surely allow organisations to take risks on those talented, well-educated candidates who need training and upskilling, funding and offering candidates the chance to complete professional qualifications as part of their role. Small recruitment budgets & expertise This would seem one of the most underrated areas for organisations to invest in. Most Public Sector organisations do not invest in experienced recruiters internally, opting for advertising because they feel it is the least costly and the easiest solution. However, what price will it pay to an organisation in the long-run to recruit the wrong candidate into a role? In my experience, advertising is in itself one of the most limited methods of recruiting for a role. Only an estimated third of the candidate market actively ‘job hunt’, where another third are passive candidates (who are always open to new opportunities), and the other third will not be on the market at all. Therefore advertising will only ever gain a ‘snapshot’ of the candidate market over a relatively short period of time, where even the active candidates will only see the opportunity if they are subscribed to that particular job board! What is the most effective? To headhunt people in similar organisations and roles. The advantage of using an agency is that whilst there is a fee involved, is that they will give you access to their database that has often been compiled over a number of years and using a number of methods. Additionally, it is risk-free in that they will often charge you nothing to view CVs or interview candidates, but only if you want to appoint one of their candidates? Additionally, you have more security on finding the ‘right person’, which in the long-run will deliver far more return on investment to the organisation which dramatically overpasses the recruitment fee. The added issue is organisations lack expertise in marketing their brand as a ‘great place to work’, which recruitment agencies are masters at. Staff retention & collaboration Away from recruiting staff, organisations are repeatedly reporting back that following investing in bright, up and coming talent, they struggle to keep them. This feeds back to not enough investment, opportunities and incentives to existing staff to distract them away from other opportunities, and the commercial sector. It also suggests that a culture of budget-cuts and uncertainty are leading people to make decisions about their future, and ultimately move on. Sub-sectors such as Local Authorities and Education should also be working harder to work collaboratively and keep staff within their given sector. Conversely, the NHS ‘Bank’ system is certainly a step in the right direction. Compliance Unfortunately, we are in an age where compliance is the ultimate force driving decisions, rather than organisations being given the autonomy to make commercial decisions. This has, in turn, led to less partnership with SMEs and allowing for real competition between recruitment suppliers in the sector. Instead, organisations are favouring recruitment suppliers on government frameworks, often leading to longer-term staffing problems. Conclusion It would seem that the pre-election pledge by the government to inject the huge £13bn membership fee back into our Public Services is not so simple. Our lack of financial stability in stepping away from the single market and the uncertainty associated with it are already leading organisations to make shorter-term solutions, which in turn means shorter-term results. With the added impact of IR35 compliance and budgets, organisations more than ever are struggling to bring in the right people on either an interim or permanent basis. It would, therefore, seem that the only real solution is to widen the resources they use to find the right candidates, which in turn widens the candidate pool. When you take everything else out of the equation, doesn’t it ultimately come down to securing and retaining the right people?

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March 2017: Finance Movers & Shakers

Saffery Champness has recently announced the appointment of a new Head of the firm’s Bristol office. Richard Cartwright becomes the new Head, taking over from incumbent Head of Office David Lemon, who will continue in his role as Partner and as a member of the management board. BDO has brought the total number of partners hired this financial year to 25, with the recent appointment of two new partners to the firm. Duncan Lamb joins BDO’s corporate finance team in Reading following 19 years at Grant Thornton. While specialising in mergers and acquisitions with a focus on private equity, Lamb also has experience in the technology sector. Colin Haig joins the business restructuring team in London from KPMG. He has 30 years’ experience working with mid-market businesses, large corporates and public sector organisations with regard to administrations, liquidations and restructuring solutions. BDO has also appointed a new private equity partner to its corporate finance team. Andrew Howson joins the firm from EY, bringing experience in advising private equity and corporate clients across multiple sectors in the UK and Europe. EY has appointed a new Global Deputy Leader of People Advisory Services to contribute to the firm’s goal of becoming the leading global professional services organisation by 2020. Dennis Layton will take up the position on April 1 and will be based in London. He joins EY from McKinsey & Company, where he was the leader of the organisation’s UK and Ireland practice and the EMEA performance transformation practice. Back to Finance Movers & Shakers Archive >>

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March Finance News Round Up

Financial Services Set for Growth A recent study by EY suggests the financial sector will continue to grow over the next couple of years despite Brexit, albeit at a slower rate. Predictions show personal and business lending growth will slow for the next two years before increasing in 2019. Early predictions forecast lending increasing to £430 billion by 2020, this follows a survey by PWC showing financial services firms are increasingly confident in the economic outlook for the industry, for the first time since 2015. People will not be replaced! Last month we highlighted an article debating the possibility of robots replacing accountants, however, since then James Ashton from The Standard has suggested that advances in artificial intelligence are unlikely to result in robots replacing humans in the workplace anytime soon. A study by PwC had suggested 30% of UK jobs could be at risk of automation within 15 years, however, Ashton notes that many industry veterans are relaxed about the potential impact on jobs. He points out that after the last big change when personal computers flooded the office a generation ago, staff numbers actually went up. Pension Age to Rise? Two recent reports for the government have highlighted the possibility that millions of people may be expected to work longer in order to qualify for a state pension. Analysis for the Department for Work and Pensions suggests that workers currently under the age of 30 may not get a pension until the age of 70, while in a separate report workers under the age of 45 may have to work a year longer, to 68.

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February Finance News Round Up

Accountants to be replaced by robots? Oliver James writes in The Sunday Times how automation may replace the role of the accountant. A report from the Big 4 firm, Deloitte, warns that a total 1m business services jobs are at "high risk" of being replaced with robots over the next 20 years, with bookkeepers, payroll managers and wage clerks most at risk. Source: The Sunday Times Overseas Accountants Avoid Britain The Times reports that the post-Brexit Britain is facing a decline in the number of professionals. The report claims a 12% decrease in professionals and a similar decline in numbers of accountants. The CIPD also reports the bosses are feeling the pinch of staff shortage across a number of sectors and disciplines. Source: The Sunday Times New Business Rates – Death of the small shops? The Chancellor has been urged to review the new Business Rates review with an eye on keeping the high street shop industry alive. With the likelihood that big businesses such as Amazon will receive breaks, it is the small shops that will be squeezed out. Source: The Times Wage Growth Up According to the ONS, wages grew 2.6% in the three months to December, outpacing the rate of inflation. The ONS also said the jobless rate held steady at an 11-year low of 4.8% and reported unemployment fell by 7,000 to 1.6m people. Separately, the ONS estimates UK productivity grew 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2016, a fourth successive quarter increase. Source: BBC News

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Top 3 reasons why candidates fail at interview (and how to avoid them)

Research suggests that the Top 3 reasons below are the main culprits for candidates not getting passed the interview stage. Two of these reasons are really quite baffling, (Number 2 & 3) and as a high-end recruiter, it seems to be suicidal that any candidate is allowed to go an interview without the proper brief and preparation. Fortunately, these interviews were not at the mercy of Pro-Finance candidates as we fully prepare, brief and assist our candidates at every stage of the process. Getting the interview is part of the hard work (your CV needs to really sell you) but there is also hard work in the preparation for the 2nd or 3rd stages of the interview process. Here is our advice to help you avoid the pitfalls. 1.     Technical Ability Over 63% of firms stated this was the reason a candidate was rejected, making it the most common reason. In 2016, firms saw a rise in numbers of types of case studies and tests that candidates were asked to sit during the interview process. One Top 10 client even introduced a group assessment day for qualified accountants, which was the first of its type seen in our industry. Whilst either you have or don’t have the requisite technical skills to do the job, there are ways to help your case at interviews. Before the interview, read the job specification. Read each and every bullet point on the job spec and think to yourself when you had experience of such a task. Most candidates go to an interview unprepared and think they can answer these questions on the spot. Very often, 30 minutes of mental preparation on projects you have worked on and technical issues encountered reveal you have much more experience than you give yourself credit for. Write these points down as this will help you to remember them in an interview. If you really do not have some of the technical experience, suggest to the interview how you might go about getting the right answer to approaching the problem. Often showing how you would approach the problem will win a client over with your ‘solution solving’. 2.     Candidates lack of knowledge about the firm This was quite possibly the most surprising reason. Candidates who were unprepared to be able to answer questions on why they wanted to work for the company and what they know of them came in at position number two. Many candidates were unable to reproduce simple facts such as services the firm provided, number of offices or size of the workforce. A large proportion of clients suggested that the candidate lacked any real drive to work for the firm, and this was supported by their lack of knowledge of their business. A lack of knowledge about the firm you are interviewing for is simply criminal. If you have gotten to interview stage, then why not read up on the firm that is going to interview you. Pro-Finance will always send you a full job description, link to the client website and other news about the interviewing firm, as well as notes on the specific person and office you are interviewing with from our meetings with that client. In the age of the web, there is no excuse to not know every aspect, not only about the firm interviewing you but also the individuals. Pro-Finance will also show you how to ‘deep mine’ information on the website so you will have plenty to talk about should the client ask the question ‘what do you know about us’. The real winners are the candidates that have some hidden gems of information up their sleeve. 3.     Inability to build rapport with the interviewer/communication skills In at position number three was the interaction between the candidate and interviewer. This is understandably one of the hardest areas to get right, but some of the feedback suggested poor eye contact, lack of confidence and inability to convince the interviewer that the candidate would be able to sell the firm/meet clients. Not everyone is, or can be, the suave debonair candidate they would envisage they would need to be at the interview, but here are some really easy wins for you to implement. Project your voice more so than you would normally, a strong handshake and firm eye contact also are important.  Remember to nod and agree when appropriate with the interviewer as this gets mental recognition. To  To emphasize and get the interviewer on-side, use their first name at regular intervals. Show real passion and enthusiasm at the interview, don’t be timid and really get engaged. At the end of the interview ask a personal question of the interview (keep it clean!) like why did they join the firm or what is their background. Avoid stock questions about the firm. Show genuine interest about the interviewer as this is the quickest and easiest way to get someone to like you.   Pro-Finance is proud to have a success rate of over 80% of candidates being interviewed and making it to the next stage of the process, and this is only possible by the investment in time we give our candidates who interview through us. No candidate should ever go to interview without a mock interview, some serious prep time and the tricks of the trade when it comes to interview style. The old saying ‘fail to prepare then prepare to fail’ is never truer here.  

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January Finance News Round Up

Accountancy Firms lead the way with apprenticeships It’s good to see that the accountancy sector leads the way in most employment polls, so it’s no surprise that they lead the way as the biggest employers of apprenticeships. Read more to see which firms and sectors are the Top 5. Source: The Times HMRC publishes list of bonkers expense claims. It is no surprise that some claims for expenses might be slightly dubious i.e the odd coffee with a ‘client’ or lunch with a prospect but Pet food for a Shih Tzu ‘guard dog'" and "Armani jeans as protective clothing for painter and decorator"? I’ve really heard it all now. Read here for some hilarious claims made to the HMRC…. Source: The Telegraph Clearing your browsing history no longer works… The Investigatory Powers Act has now been given royal assent. It adds new surveillance powers including rules that force internet providers to keep complete records of every website that all of their customers visit. Source The Independent Business rates rise could cost us 30p per pint and pubs a whopping £420million Britain’s pubs face an extra bill of £420 million in business rates over the next five years, putting pressure on operators to raise beer prices. According to an analysis of the new rating list by CVS, the rent and rates specialist, pubs would have to sell another 121 million pints to cover the increases in property taxes paid to councils to fund local services. Source: The Times

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The Perks of Working for a Small Charity

Do you have an interest in working for a Not-for-Profit organisation? In this article, Sneha Choudhury discusses the perks of working for one of the smaller charities and why this may be the best option for you. Having always had an interest in charities and charity work, it was only when I became a recruiter in the not-for-profit sector that I was able to see just how many charities, and types of charities, exist in the UK alone. As well as some of the ‘house-hold’ charities such as Save the Children, NSPCC and WWF, there are many others out there which operate on less funding. For many, it is the recognition that comes with working for a large and very established brand that draws people to these types of organisations. Do people want to work for ‘significant’ organisations and perhaps not the smaller ones as they are not as well-known, or maybe also because less funding potentially equates to less stability, or less opportunities for growth? Many accountants I have worked with have at one point or another expressed their immediate desire to work for one of these ‘house-hold’ names. But why not work for a smaller charity, particularly at the beginning of your career? There are several reasons why working for a smaller charity can be more practically beneficial than stepping into a larger organisation from the offset. Devi Clarke, a third sector coach, says “Ignoring small charities as sources of employment or volunteering is like ignoring an elephant’s body and only looking at its ears or trunk.  Although some are completely volunteer run, finding work in a small charity is a great way to have an impact and develop a fulfilling career.” To illustrate this, working for a smaller charity, and therefore a smaller financeteam, means that you have the opportunity to learn in a very hands-on environment. In a larger charity, there may not be as much flexibility to dabble in and out of different areas as easily, as the lines between ‘sub-teams’ (i.e. The Accounts Payable Team) are often more defined, therefore not permitting as much cross-over and opportunity to learn other areas of finance. Consequently, working in a smaller finance team may entitle you to more responsibility, as you could be working more closely with a senior member of staff and gaining more financial insight and progress. As a result when it comes to applying for your next step up, having worked for a small charity you might have ticked more boxes in the ‘experience’ department as you will have had a more encompassing exposure to finance compared to someone of a similar level who has only worked in a larger team. Kudzai Mushangwe who is a Finance Business Partner at Marie Curie Cancer Care, one of the largest health charities in the UK, started off her career working for smaller organisations before moving onto large, multi-million pound organisations. She says, “The first thing that comes to mind is the wealth of experience I gained in small companies where I had sole charge of the finance function. It allowed me to make the role my own and encouraged me to really think about how and why something was being done, which led to process improvement/implementation which is something I've been able to take with me into subsequent roles. “ From previous experience, those in the early stages of their career wanting to work for larger organisations can sometimes find it tricky without relevant company or team size experience. My piece of advice to these people would be to gain some experience which connects you to the organisation you are ultimately aiming for, whether that is in terms of type of organisation, size or complexity as this will automatically give you a good foot in the door. At Pro Not-for-Profit, we are specialists in recruitment into the charity sector exclusively, and I specialise in permanent finance recruitment, looking predominantly at junior positions from Finance Assistants to Finance Managers and everything in between (part-qualified and qualified). If you have charity experience or are looking to move into the charity sector, do be in touch for a confidential conversation to discuss your options.  

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3 Worries About Your Ability To Win New Clients

A few months ago Heather Townsend, co-author of 'How to make partner and still have a life’,  explained the 10 lessons that every prospective partner needs to learn to an audience of over 200 tax, finance and legal professionals. The 6th lesson was the need to have a consistent business development routine.  As a follow on to this talk, in this article, Heather shares 3 signs that the consistent business development activity you are doing is not effective. One of the great things about working with talented professionals is seeing them achieve their potential and overcome their insecurities. I was, therefore, somewhat surprised to have a call with one of my most successful clients and hear he was worried about his billing. He was understandably concerned that his pipeline was looking light after the Brexit shock and the summer months. So, I started to prepare my normal advice about what to do when your pipeline looks a little light. As with all of these things, between worrying about the problem and speaking to me, 3 new chunky matters had landed on his desk. Therefore, in this blog post, I will share the key things to check BEFORE panicking about your pipeline.  1. It isn’t that time of year When I used to work as a learning and development manager for BDO, I learned that the firm didn't want to know our team over summer or the peak audit months. It doesn't matter whether you are an auditor or lawyer, there will always be busy periods and quiet periods. However, if you not yet aware of the rhythm and flow of your type of practice, it can be very easy to get anxious when the phone doesn't ring. Before you worry about the phone NOT ringing, talk to the more experienced people around you. Are they quiet too, and is this normal for this point in the year?  2. Are you being a busy fool? Everyone has a comfort zone when it comes to business development. If you are interested, mine is blogging. I can always write a blog if it means I can avoid doing something in my "too hard" box. As a result, it is possible to be consistently marketing, but not doing enough of the right stuff.  The right balance of the "right stuff" will be different for different practices. The marketing plan for a litigator will look fairly different to the marketing plan for a Company Commercial Lawyer with a loyal set of long-standing clients. But typically, the "right stuff" for most professionals in practice means a consistent business development routine which you implement weekly. (I.e. the 6th lesson in Heather’s 10 lessons) The routine has you keeping in touch with your existing clients and introducers, maintaining a high profile where your clients/introducers hang out online and off-line, investing in producing high-quality valuable content which you are sharing with your network. 3. Are you well known within your marketplace? Many of my clients start off as their firm's best-kept secret! Is it any wonder that they can the reputation of being a safe pair of hands who isn't future partner material. If you have spent the time building up a strong brand in your firm and external marketplace, work will come to you. Of course, there is no guarantee that this work will come to you in a consistent manner! In summary, If your business development routine is targeted, measured and implemented consistently then new leads will come your way. Be aware that seasonality may mean that they don't come in a regular manner across the year. Author Credit Heather Townsend is a best-selling author and executive coach who helps people make partner in the legal, accounting, and consultancy professions.  Click here to download Heather’s FREE ebook containing all of the 10 lessons. She blogs on the How To Make Partner website, where you can read many more articles about winning new business. The new edition of the best-selling How To Make Partner And Still Have a Life is out in September 2016.  It’s been called ‘an absolute must-read (and potential life saver) for anyone pursuing a professional career.’ Buy your copy now and get 20% discount with the code H2MPG20

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