Go east, young accountant

Russia offers riches to Western expats who can take the hard-edged lifestyle. Paul Gosling looks at a great career option for the truly tough

Major corporations creating Russian subsidiaries are searching for accountants from the West to look after their money. Those who take the jobs can earn massive salaries and give their careers a boost, but they face a range of perils, from deadly boredom in almost forgotten towns in the middle of nowhere, to the risk of kidnap or murder at the hands of the powerful Moscow mafias.

Russia today is a cross between Chicago in the gun-toting, liquor-running, roaring Twenties, and the frontier territories of the Wild West, with accountants in the thick of it, says Hugh Everard, director of Michael Page's Eastern Europe division. Those who flourishhave got their careers made. "They either crumple quickly, or they make it," says Mr Everard.

And making it in the context of Eastern Europe can mean a tax-free salary, courtesy of an offshore account, well in excess of US$150,000. Accommodation will be thrown in, along with a chauffeur, car and personal security. Large hardship allowances will be paid for those who end up in an obscure Siberian town.

For the Michael Page recruitment agency, the Eastern Europe division has become an important element of its operations. "A lot of Western investment is going in," says Mr Everard. "When corporations make that investment they want to know what is happening to their money. Often it is a joint venture, hoping to gain control."

It is not merely that Western businesses feel more at ease trusting Western accountants. Few accountants in Russia have GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practice) reporting experience, or understand Western accounting practices. Lucien Bartram is group accountant for the Gunsbury pharmaceutical group, which is heavily involved in Russia, requiring Mr Bartram to visit Russia and the Ukraine almost monthly.

"The problems for accountants are focused on differences of reporting requirements," says Mr Bartram. "In Russia there is no requirement to produce consolidated accounts. A lot of normal expenses are disallowable, making the real tax rate a lot higher, at 30 to 35 per cent.

"The profit motive is a very new concept. Minds in the West are focused on short-termism, profits, return on capital, but the legislation in Russia still requires returns showing full employment. These were statistics that the former government used to throw out to the world as proof of their economic model. So there is a huge problem in bringing Russian companies into line with what the West expects," adds Mr Bartram.

Nor is this the least of the challenges an accountant may expect. Hays Executive has also been recruiting for posts in Eastern and Central Europe. "We had one person whose chauffeur was kidnapped twice," says Neil Holmes, business manager for Hays Executive. On the first occasion the ransom was for the car, and on the second it was for the chauffeur's life.

"He was based in Moscow, his employer was American and had a policy of employees integrating into the community," explains Mr Holmes. "Only he and his wife were placed in a housing estate and found it a very threatening environment. They ended up living in the compound of the company they worked for."

Problems are worst in Moscow, less severe in St Petersburg, and quite different in remote places such as Siberia. Despite the isolation of such communities, many executives enjoy themselves greatly if they can fit into small ex-pat communities, and develop a frontier spirit.

Attitude is the key to being successful in Eastern Europe, but knowledge of the region can be important in landing the jobs. "It is a bit of a catch-22," says Mr Holmes, "as many employers want previous Russian experience. The next best thing is fluency in Russian."

While speaking Russian is obviously a help in landing a job and coping with life when there, it is often not an essential job requirement. Russia's business lingua franca is English, and much investment comes from America. And, at least in Moscow, Westerners can become part of a large ex-pat community, with a vibrant social life.

Once the Navy told recruits they could see the world, gain new friends and find excitement. Now all that and more - a small fortune - is on offer to accountants.

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

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
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 per annum + commission: SThree: Sthree have an exciting opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £32,000+

    £18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

    £50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat