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A rise in demand for transformation reconciliation specialists across accounting support.
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A rise in demand for transformation reconciliation specialists across accounting support.

Posted on 24 February 2022

​Working for a bespoke Accounting and Payroll recruitment specialist puts me at the front line of transactional finance recruitment. I have noticed a few significant impacts of our two-year long pandemic in the world of Payroll, Credit, Accounts Receivable, and Accounts Payable.

Cutbacks and streamlining of transactional services.

If I wind the clock all the way back to March 2020 and the beginning of the COVID19 crisis here in Australia, many of my clients across Sydney’s North Shore began a general streamlining of transactional services as part of the first cutbacks they made in response to the downturn.

Many of the first roles to be made redundant or outsourced during the downturn were amongst Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable teams.

At the same time, demands on payroll teams had significantly increased.

This was mostly because of new legislation, single-touch payroll, the increase of overpayment and underpayment scandals, and organisation’s associated efforts to keep track of increasingly complex award rates. On top of this, we then added the significant complexity of JobKeeper, JobSaver, and other government-funded support programs.

Understandably then, despite the economic slowdown and strain of the economy at the time, payroll officers remained in high demand whilst others in the transactional finance market struggled to find or remain in work.

A slow recovery and new demands.

Thankfully most of the transactional finance job families began a slow recovery during 2021, but it is only during the last half-year that I have seen a significant shift into a new demand area.

Renewed levels of confidence in the economy now appear to have enabled organisations to commit to previously on-hold transformations, systems implementations, process optimisation, and automation programs.

Such transformation programs have substantially increased demand across the accounts payable, receivable, and reconciliation markets, most notably for those with analytical capabilities.

All of the transformation programs I am seeing seem to share a common theme – the need for reinvestment in ledgers that may have been neglected somewhat in favour of higher priorities, but which now need to be addressed to enable successful delivery of transformation.

Even without transformation projects or system upgrades, businesses now have time to focus on tidying their ledger, reducing debts, and cleaning up the accounts. Where companies had previously been more lenient with their suppliers regarding payment terms during the height of the pandemic, they are now looking to reconcile that debt. An educational institute I work with, extended the payment terms for their student fees during the pandemic, but later had to reconcile and collect the overdue payments. This was a huge project that required a number of additional hires over a 3-6 month period.

This, in turn, has created additional demand on an already-under-supplied marketplace and has even prompted the emergence of a new type of reconciliation role that I have been seeing an increased demand in the Sydney market for the first time in several years.

These new roles would typically be assistant accountants, with much deeper analysis skills who must not only be highly competent in their technical field but now need to bring strong problem-solving skills and the ability to move beyond basic data processing to data analysis. They need to work out how to restore account reconciliations to optimal levels as part of the enablement of successful transformations.

Impact on the contracting market.

Understandably this creates a very hot contracting market owing to the finite nature of the project and the scarcity of specialists with this blend of technical and analytical skills.

High-level Excel skills are now essential in these roles, with those unable to create pivot tables and use v-lookup being left behind. I always recommend candidates upskill their Excel skills via either a TAFE course or even YouTube videos, as these skills are now vital in these roles.

Impact on the permanent market.

The permanent market is also very strong for general assistant accountants with many smaller businesses combining AP/AR and month-end roles and structuring these roles to report directly to a Financial Controller to reduce layers and overheads. This then creates broader roles and wider exposure to all areas of the business for this type of candidate.

Candidates for every role across transactional finance remain in high demand – most people are either very well looked after, concerned about being “last in first out” in the event of further lockdowns and economic downturns, or are just reluctant to start a new job requiring them to learn new skills or environments.

The future of transactional finance and transformation.

The emergence of these new and interesting role types, high demand, and a rapidly developing specialist contracting market, plus the increase in Working Holiday Maker visa holders migrating to the country, the 2022 transactional finance market is looking pretty exciting!

I am currently working on a number of roles with transactional finance. If you are interested to find out more contact me today for a confidential chat.

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