Jason Murphy, ACCA Ireland chair, Orla Collins, ACCA president, Jean O’Donovan, director of the professional services division at Brightwater

Despite the challenges of Brexit, the energy crisis and the supply chain difficulties due to the war in Ukraine, business in general across the island is strong and companies are hiring to meet this demand. That was the message that Jean O’Donovan, director of the professional services division at Brightwater, gave to new members at their recent celebration event, which was sponsored by the recruitment specialist.

As O’Donovan pointed out on the night, the ACCA Qualification is a passport to career success, not just in Ireland but globally. Accountants are now perceived as pivotal members of the overall business. ACCA as a qualification not only guarantees accountancy skills but also commercial awareness and the ability to help shape overall business strategy.

‘The past two years have certainly made people stop and consider what they want out of their careers’

Try harder

However, she noted the accountancy market is experiencing a shortage of talent, for a variety of reasons. ‘Post-pandemic, some employers are not quite as flexible with working models as they should be in order to retain and attract the best talent. The past two years have certainly made people stop and consider what they want out of their careers and how they want their lives to work.’

She also urged employers to sell themselves to the market. ‘The days of a prestigious name being enough to attract and retain talent are long gone,’ she warned. ‘Every employer has to set out their stall and outline their employee value proposition. The pressure is on firms to show that they can offer valid and rewarding career paths for employees, including quicker promotion prospects and being more creative and generous with their remuneration packages.’

A flexible working model is no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’ but as an essential part of the overall job package. ‘We’re seeing more people ask about flexible/hybrid working before they’re asking about the salary,’ she said. ‘We are constantly telling employers that they need to step up their game in this regard. Some of the bigger players are doing it well, but there is still room for improvement.’

In trying to offer their clients more services than ever to take advantage of a busy market, accountancy firms need to find the resources to deliver those services.

‘We’re working with a number of accountancy firms who are building out M&A and project management departments as well as firms who are looking to grow both organically and acquisitively,’ O’Donovan explained. ‘This helps them offer alternative career paths to existing employees as well as build excitement out in the marketplace and promote themselves as a vibrant employer of choice.’

Practice vs industry

The old problem of people leaving practice for industry is also rearing its head as accountants become more confident about quitting secure jobs. Ireland’s FDI (foreign direct investment) sector is performing very well, as is the Irish entrepreneurial sector. Global companies such as materials manufacturer Trinseo are still choosing Ireland as a location of choice for centres of excellence. All this simply leads to far more choice for accountants as they gain qualifications and climb up the ladder.

‘Industry can be more flexible on working patterns and remuneration packages’

New members’ celebration

ACCA Ireland’s first in-person new members’ celebration since 2019 welcomed 300 guests and provided an opportunity to thank members and students for their ongoing support and to outline how they can continue working with ACCA in the future. Members received their certificates from Orla Collins, in one of her final duties during her year as ACCA president.

Jason Murphy, ACCA Ireland chair, said: ‘It is important for our new members to realise that the journey doesn’t stop here. They should celebrate their achievements, and remember that they have joined an organisation that will support them for the rest of their careers.

‘I still remember all too well the evenings/weekends and various other sacrifices I made to commit to my studies. This commitment and personal discipline has led to a fantastic achievement that they all should be very proud of and should provide confidence for them to aim high in terms of achievement in the future.’

Giving back

Murphy reminded new members that they are now part of a global family of ACCA members, with many opportunities for engaging with fellow members through online events and member networking events.

He particularly recommended getting involved in the network of member panels across Ireland. They shape ACCA Ireland’s annual CPD programme and help to focus on the next generation of accountants through ACCA’s schools initiative programme.

‘If I had any wise words of wisdom to share with our newly qualified members, it would be to get involved with ACCA. You too can make your mark and help define the ACCA of the future.’

Ireland is still a major hub for manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies, in particular, and those organisations have been building up their in-house capabilities. They are no longer outsourcing functions such as payroll, taxation and internal audit, which increases the number of roles available for accountants in industry. Industry is also perhaps seen as a more generous and flexible employer than practice.

It is also viewed as an area where accountants can really be a cornerstone of the business. ‘We’ve seen a sharp increase in roles in industry at all levels, particularly this year,’ O’Donovan said. ‘Those in industry can also be more flexible on working patterns and remuneration packages, so it’s an attractive prospect.’

Financial services

Ireland has a well-deserved reputation as a global hub for financial services, and Brexit has accelerated its growth. It’s not just in Dublin where the growth has come but across the country, where global financial services leaders have set up thriving bases and are able to hire from the local talent pool. ‘Nearly half of Irish-based funds have a presence outside of Dublin,’ O’Donovan said. ‘Cork, Kilkenny and Limerick have benefited hugely from this sector.’

Financial services companies investing and expanding in Ireland this year include Alter Domus and BNY Mellon in Cork and Dublin as well as StepStone in Dublin.

‘Ireland is seen as a huge hub for innovation in financial services and fintech,’ O’Donovan said. ‘Our record for innovation as well as support from various government agencies puts us well ahead of other countries, so there is a plethora of opportunities for ACCA members to work within the sector.’

More information

ACCA’s Accounting for the Future online conference will be hosting a session on the new skills needed of finance professionals in a fast-evolving business environment.

ACCA’s careers hub has information about jobs globally.

ACCA’s Career Navigator has advice on developing your career.