Finance and Accounting: Mid-Year Industry and Jobs Update for 2021

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This post reviews the key data and findings from the past few months from the recognised journals and bodies in the finance world. We have a lot to look forward to as an industry and, as always, key areas that we need to address if we want to capitalise on the opportunities ahead. 

As I write this summary post to review the start of 2021, we have a new health secretary, Sajid Javid, in place after Matt Hancock’s resignation. Mr Javid has an economics and finance background and was the former Chancellor before the pandemic hit in February last year, reportedly resigning after disagreements with Dominick Cummings. 

During the last year, he has held a backbench position whilst also working for JP Morgan. It is unlikely he has had a major impact on how the country starts to ‘open up’ again, though it will be interesting to see how his economic focus shapes plans in the future. 

The GECS Reveals a Potentially Brighter Future  

On the ACCA global website, a summary of the Q1 Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS) is more positive than its immediate predecessor, with confidence rising by the most in the survey’s history.  

The approval and implementation of several effective vaccines have dramatically improved the prospects of an end to the COVID crisis. 

The global orders index also increased in the Q1 survey and is consistent with accelerating global economic growth in the coming months.  

Raef Lawson, PhD, CMA, CPA, IMA vice president of research and policy, shared that for 2021, global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is likely to approach 6%, an exceptionally strong rebound after the 3.5% fall last year. 

However, the two ‘fear’ indices in GECS – measured by concern that customers and suppliers may go out of business – are still at elevated levels, underscoring the high degree of uncertainty that persists about the outlook.   

Key Influences Moving Forward  

Vaccination Implementation: Whether you are a Johnson fan or not, you cannot ignore the positive impact of the U.K. roll-out of the Astra Zeneca and Pfizer vaccination programme, which has not been the case in other countries. According to the latest data reported on the BBC news site, the U.K. now has over 45.6 million adults who have received at least one dose, much higher than many other countries worldwide. 

Logically it appears that vaccination can replace lockdown as a means of controlling COVID-19, thereby allowing economic conditions to return to normal. 

Policy: Government policy is a fiscal stimulus, especially in the U.S., which naturally has a spillover impact in advanced economies like the U.K.  

Consumer Spending: For more than a year, many individuals in the U.K. have accumulated a savings surplus through scaled back holidays and nowhere to go and spend their hard-earned cash. This scenario is predicted to result in increased consumer spending throughout the rest of this year. 

These influences predict that the U.K. is likely to have better growth prospects. 

The Increasing Need for Finance Professionals at All Levels  

Whenever there is economic pressure, the finance professional steps in and steps up, which has most certainly been the case during the last turbulent eighteen months. 

The work undertaken by these individuals has taken on greater significance in most organisations. Never has there been such a need for finance teams to demonstrate a deep understanding of the organisations they work within. 

In the joint research conducted by ACCA and PwC, the extent of change that teams have embraced has become clearer since March 2020.  

The phrase ‘five years in five months’ has been used across various activities in an organisation. It stresses the agility and extent of collaboration that have been required. 

For finance teams, this has meant addressing four key areas: 

  • Relevance 
  • Data and Technology 
  • Innovation and Collaboration 
  • Skills and Careers 

There is a huge opportunity for finance teams to take a more strategic role if they can capitalise on their successes last year. 

The finance role in 2020 was about cash flow management and survival. The focus has now moved to planning for growth through buy and build strategies, amalgamating systems using technology and the need to understand in an emotionally intelligent way how to work across organisations through developing leadership capability. 

Everything sounds positive, which it is, provided senior finance leaders embrace the need for flexibility in how teams embrace work-life balance as they deliver the results their organisation wants. 

Increased Financial Roles and Attracting Finance Talent, A Challenge  

The good news for financial professionals looking for the next career move is that an increasing number of career progression opportunities across the north of England are available; as I speak to my financial recruiting colleagues across the U.K., it is a similar picture. 

All good news, though, as a financial organisation looking to hire your next finance star successfully, there are a few things to consider. 

The world of work has changed, and with it, the expectations of finance professionals. Accountancy Today published an article by Professor Arif Khurshed, Professor of Finance at the Alliance Manchester Business School, who shared many lessons for finance professionals to take into the future.  

A study conducted by Nerdwallet of more than 900 business managers in the U.K. found that a majority (54%) had felt the previous year to be the most stressful of their careers up to that point.  

Not surprisingly, though, the study revealed that over a third of the 900 plus respondents had sought mental health support during Covid-19, which is most concerning for a group of employees renowned for ‘carry on’ no matter what. 

A well-recognised phrase in leadership circles is that people grow organisations rather than products. You may agree or disagree; however, our need to look after the needs of our employees’ health and wellbeing is paramount. 

In a previous post, I reviewed the growth in hybrid working Ana; please hyperlink to last month’s post. Before the recent announcement from Deloitte, it gives employees in the U.K. the ability to choose to work from home forever as it embraces flexible working permanently. 

Chief executive Richard Houston confirmed that its 20,000-strong workforce would be able to choose when, where and how they work in the future. 

The auditing giant, one of the “big four” accounting firms, said the pandemic had accelerated its hybrid working model. 

I appreciate it is different for an organisation of this size; however, how could you embrace a remote/flexible model. 

I have worked in the financial recruiting sector over the last twenty years, and the last few months have been the first time candidates have asked me about organisations’ views on flexible working. 

A warning sign that remote and hybrid working is an opportunity to embrace. 


What Next? 

For the first time in over a year, it is good to share positive news and the potential growth opportunities now appearing, provided we also embrace the new norm and what our employees need. 

If you are looking for support to build your talent pipeline or your next financial career move, you can get in touch with the Rebus team by emailing us here or calling our direct line on 01282 930 930 



Rachel Mitson 

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