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; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

    Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

    Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

    £18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

    Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss