Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Number Crunchers Earn High Sums

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Number Crunchers Earn High Sums

Article excerpt

Byline: NIKI CHESWORTH

NEWLY qualified accountants, as well as those with a few years' post-qualification experience, are in a strong negotiating position with employers.

Seven in 10 say they plan to work in finance until they retire, but what they do with these skills depends on their own ambition and their individual talents.

With accountancy increasingly seen as a professional business qualification, there is a widening range of opportunity.

Some 60 per cent go off into industry, 30 per cent remain in practice and the remainder either work in the public sector or for themselves, according to the international accountancy body the ACCA.

"During training, accountants are learning about different sectors, different sizes of business and different business models, so they gain a broad level of experience," says Tony Osude, head of business partnership at the ACCA.

"Combined with an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of a business and a professional scepticism, they are attractive to employers - which is why we have seen a 50 per cent increase in member numbers in the past five years.

"Graduates with good degrees realise that they need to differentiate themselves with a professional qualification.

"But what makes individual candidates successful is being able to communicate beyond numbers and to make the figures live and breathe."

Candidates with these "soft" skills are in biggest demand, say leading recruitment consultants.

Phil Sheridan, of recruitment consultancy Robert Half Finance & Accounting, says: "Whilst accounting qualifications have a significant part to play in determining an accountant's career success, the 'transferable skills' are also important.

"The image of the accountant who lacks social skills is completely outdated.

Today's employees need to impress their managers with the skills that cannot be taught - communication is key. Financial procedures can be learned - the ability to explain yourself clearly and engage people are much rarer attributes."

Nick Tout, senior regional director of Hays Accountancy and Finance, agrees: "While there is a bit of snobbery about some qualifications being better than others, what we look at are the softer skills that candidates have when trying to match them to the right job. …

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