July, 2013

We are now mid-way through the calendar year 2013, and so far this year the world of recruiting hasn’t been bad.  Well, put it this way, I’ve seen much worse markets that this.  I feel that my prediction back in Jan / Feb this year (click to the link on the right) has more or less held true, although I now feel more confident than then on activity levels for the rest of this year.  The stock market has remained buoyant during the year so far (FTSE 100 currently around 6,500) and at some points has crept up towards 7,000.  This certainly helps bolster confidence in the job market as businesses will feel that they are operating in a ‘rising’ market and so hiring is part of that.

In addition, the Reed job index is providing other promising statistics.  Figures released for June 2013 show a 22% year-on-year uplift in available job positions. The number of new job opportunities rose 7% quarter-on-quarter, with the Reed Job Index now standing at 163 points.  In comparison, the average monthly level during 2012 was 134.

However we still have a back drop of economic uncertainty in the Eurozone, economies in countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece remain very weak, which has direct impact on the UK. The UK economy seems to be treading water on low interest rates, and with some (albeit very little) signs of growth i.e. 0.6% for the last quarter to June 2013.  So I think we have some way to go before we see a bullish recruitment market in the UK, with possibly some more bumps on the road along the way.

In terms of the current tax job market in the UK, it’s certainly active although not very bullish.  The practice / advisory side of the market is quite patchy.  Big 4 and other larger-end accounting firms are recruiting cautiously, being careful to select only those tax candidates that have more rare skill sets or deeper tax specialisms so as to continue offering progressively more specialised tax services to distinct segments of the commercial market.  The medium sized and smaller firms still remain at low levels of recruitment for tax professionals.

The in-house tax market, which tends to be the least volatile segment of the tax jobs market, has been quite active.  The majority of recruitment is still for replacement of people moving on from positions, although also showing good signs of making strategic hires to add to the in-house tax capabilities or specialisms, for example in the areas of transfer pricing, R&D or tax risk.  However it is often difficult to assess if this is recruiting due to growth, or to achieve an overall net cut on costs by reducing on advisory fees.

The in-house tax job market is also dependent on M&A / transaction activity i.e. new roles and departments being formed as a result of companies merging or breaking up.  This has been more active over the last 6 months, and coupled with this there has been a small increase in activity at senior end, with some job moves and appointments at the Group Tax Director level.  This is on the whole good news for the in-house tax sector, as those new Heads of Tax may reshape their departments, hiring externally at a variety of levels and areas of experience, resulting in a small cascade of recruitment activity around the market.

In the field of tax software and technology, an area in which Talentpool Selection is very active, the sector in the UK is still developing and growing, and we see a continuation of new tax system products coming to the market, both in the UK and in parts of Europe.  There has been hiring activity across some of the software houses in the tax field, reflecting a reasonable level of demand for tax software products from the client side.  The Big 4 advisory teams in this sector have been slower on the recruiting side over the last 6 months – not so much due to lull in the need for people to join their teams, but more to do with slowness and resistance when seeking approvals to hire.  We have also been pleased to see more frequent hiring on the in-house side for tax systems / process / technology specialists, although these roles will only tend to come up in the very top tier (in terms of size) multinational groups.

So there remains demand in the London / South East / Thames Valley region for candidates with strong cross-over skills between tax compliance and IT to either enter or move within this sector.  In particular cross-over skills between ERP / SAP and tax, or between tax and database solutions are in high demand, although hard-to-find skills in the UK market.

In summary, the tax job market in the UK is active, and now responding in line with a recovering and improved overall UK jobs market.  In the absence of any economic ‘bumps in the road’, we expect to see this continue for the rest of 2013 and into early 2014.