Talent will out

Roger Trapp says the best young accountants are seizing the moment - and moving on
Recruitment consultants predict a "merry-go-round" of new accountants when another tranche qualifies at the end of this month. Harrison Willis says that 52 per cent of the young hopefuls it surveyed said they definitely intended to leave their jobs if they passed.

The recruitment consultancy points out that this is the highest proportion since the heady days of 1989, and says this is because the market is desperately short of bright young candidates. Graham Palfrey-Smith, managing director of the firm, says: "Because of the cutbacks in graduate recruitment in the early 1990s, there are just not enough people coming through the system.

"While the number of newly qualified ACAs on the move has been steadily increasing over the past three years, a degree of nervousness hanging over from the recession has still made many think twice about leaving the security of the firm they have trained with. However, in 1997 it looks like real confidence has finally returned and even the timid could be looking for a change of scenery."

Hays Accountancy Personnel, another recruitment consultancy, reports that salaries for newly qualifieds are rising by as much as 7.4 per cent in London. "Demand for the most talented candidates is outstripping supply and as a result salaries are rising by well over double or even triple the rate of inflation for some staff," it says.

Denis Waxman, the consultancy's managing director, adds that "employers are recognising the need to have the best staff on board and are prepared to pay premium rates for them".

But he warns that technical competence is no longer enough to gain such rewards. His firm claims that its survey supports the idea that the traditional image of the accountant as bean counter is set to disappear as non-technical skills, such as a personality and communication, rise in importance.

"One of the enduring lessons of the recession for many employers was the need to ensure real value for money from staff. It is no longer enough for accountants and other finance staff simply to be competent technically - if they have a management role they are expected to have the skills required to run their team efficiently and this includes effective communication skills," says Mr Waxman.