Follow the trail for a top salary

Few people have the skills needed to test complex computer systems, so the rewards are high, says Roger Trapp

These days it is a rare accountant who does not have some information technology skills. Just turning up for work and attempting to do the job at one of the leading firms requires at least a passing familiarity with computers.

But a rapidly developing group of accountants who have specialised in IT in a particular way are in increasing demand. In the words of one insider, they are worth a lot of money because they are "as scarce as rocking-horse manure".

These are the people who practise computer audit - IT or electronic data processing (EDP) audit, or information systems (IS) audit, or simply computer audit, depending where you are coming from. What makes them so special is that banks and other organisations have begun to introduce such complex computer systems that only a few internal people know how they operate, with the result that the top management has little control over these systems and often even less idea about how to carry out checks.

The computer auditor is able to establish an "audit trail" throughout the system. What makes this skill so appealing is that it brings the IT system within the purview of the regular audit.

As Paul Wright, of the IT division of the financial recruitment specialists Robert Walters, points out, in audit occasional individual transactions are investigated to test the validity of information being presented. "So it is reasonable to test whether the computer is doing what it should be properly."

Because the exercise is a little more complex than counting widgets and comparing the figures with those in stock records, those able to do it can command relatively high salaries.

Since the IT industry is as ageist as any, candidates should be between 25 and 35 years old. The perfect profile, according to Mr Wright, adds experience in a leading investment bank. Since it is also more prone to jargon than most, extensive knowledge of such terms as "Unix platforms" and "client server environments" is also necessary. In return, the successful candidate can expect to be paid a salary of more than £30,000. A 35-year- old with top-flight experience might get £45,000 to £50,000, he adds.

US banks have traditionally been the highest payers in this area, but their British counterparts are starting to catch up in an effort to attract the right skills.

But it is not just in the City that this demand is appearing. In industry and commerce, according to Gary Watson, a director for that sector at the London office of the financial recruitment consultants Michael Page, there are so few with the requisite skills that it is a candidate-driven market.

Companies want these people - and are prepared to pay for them - because without having such skills in-house they are forced to seek help from either the software firms that supplied them or their external auditors - either of which could be expensive.

Such organisations are looking for candidates with hi-tech or computer studies degrees who went on to become chartered accountants, moving from general audit to computer audit within practice, and now want to move into industry. Successful applicants will typically be aged between the middle and late twenties and be paid up to £35,000 a year.

But, lucrative as it undoubtedly can be, computer audit is not the only option for the accountant keen to use IT skills. Depending on the applicant's background and expertise on certain systems, various back-office roles present themselves. Those with mathematical backgrounds might even secure positions in investment banks' trading or risk-making operations.

However, events of recent months - particularly the Barings dbcle and difficulties at SG Warburg - mean that City confidence has slipped. While the "rocking-horse manure" sellers are likely always to be able to find homes, others will have to try extra hard to attract offers.

According to John Zafar of Michael Page, "The thing that every employer looks for is personality. They have got to be able to demonstrate good communication skills."

Given generally-held perceptions of IT specialists on the one hand and accountants on the other, that might prove a tall order for many who combine the two specialisms.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

    £40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

    Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer - North West London - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

    £40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

    Selby Jennings: Corporate Communications & Marketing Specialist – Geneva

    120,000 - 150,000 chf + bonus: Selby Jennings: A leading Swiss Private Banking...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need