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Accountancy & Finance Foresight – Market Insight, Tax & Exams

A&F Q1 Newsletter

Market Insight

Skills in demand

  • In the qualified market we are continuing to see increased demand for candidates with technical accounting knowledge for roles in financial and statutory reporting. This trend emphasises the high demand for candidates with practical experience. However, from the candidates’ perspective, many view this pathway as less appealing post-qualification, despite its potential to launch a long and rewarding career. An increasing number of candidates with backgrounds in practice and financial accounting within industry are seeking transitions into more commercially-focused or management accounting positions.
  • There continues to be a strong appetite for experienced Managers/Controllers throughout Central Scotland, which we predict will continue. There has however been slightly less demand at Finance Director/CFO level, which can be seen as a period of consolidation and monitoring this sector over the coming months will be essential.
  • The demand for expertise in Power BI, advanced Excel, and systems understanding remains high, with numerous companies, from small enterprises to large corporations, undertaking projects ranging from system upgrades to full-scale transformations. Accountants specialising in Power BI will establish a significant niche for themselves, while more traditional accountants may find the need to catch up as more organisations leverage this critical technology.

Challenges in the market

  • We are continuing to see the demand within the market for increased salaries across all levels, some at a considerable rate, which can be seen as having an adverse affect on businesses through talent shortages, impact on the recruitment process, employee retention, and pressure on compensation packages]
  • Hybrid working remains a crucial consideration for candidates, with fully in-office positions proving more challenging to fill than those offering hybrid options. A recent poll by an Iconic A&F recruitment team member on LinkedIn found that 83% of respondents (425 in total) would not apply for a job if it required full-time office attendance. ACCA research indicates that Scotland is a global leader in hybrid working approaches, with nearly three-quarters (71%) of finance professionals working this way. This trend underscores the importance for businesses to offer flexible working arrangements to attract and retain top talent. Companies that fail to adapt to the growing preference for hybrid working models may find it increasingly difficult to fill critical roles, potentially leading to operational challenges and a competitive disadvantage in the job market.
  • Political uncertainty with the pending General Election, coupled with high interest rates have had an impact on acquisitions, additional funding and investment, particularly into the Tech sector for scale up organisations. However, overall Scotland still remains an attractive location to start and invest in a technology business, with many leaders 79%, forecasting the sector will continue to grow rapidly over the next 5 years.
  • With school and summer holidays fast approaching, this typically makes recruitment challenging for business. Holidays and annual leave can make lining diaries up more challenging between multiple stakeholders. To streamline the process, Iconic recommends proactively understanding the timescales and annual leave plans of the hiring team in advance to ensure full engagement of clients and candidates throughout the hiring process.


  • More candidates we speak to at the part-qualified and newly qualified level have built in ‘clawbacks’ for their exam fees from their employers, some of which we have heard reach into the thousands of pounds. This adds another dynamic to recruitment and hiring candidates at this level, can your business afford to offset this cost to get the best candidate for the job? This also gives us something to think about when supporting employees through their exams. It’s natural to want some security that they won’t get qualified on your cost and then jump ship to another company. But at the same time, do you really want to keep someone who doesn’t want to be there? Finding the right balance between supporting their growth and ensuring they stay engaged with your company is key.

Tax and practice markets

  • Demand remains high for candidates in tax and public practice, with vacancies remaining open for longer than more traditional accountancy roles or roles in industry. The simple reason for this comes down to the availability of candidates who are interested in these types of role. Tax in particular is a niche skillset with a smaller talent pool in Scotland – we would highly recommend if you are looking for a Tax position to be filled that you partner exclusively with one recruitment agency to avoid multiple consultants saturating a small pool of qualified individuals with your company’s role. Iconic has seen some real success partnering exclusively with clients looking to recruit in this area.
  • Across our practice clients, we are observing a significant demand for Business Advisory professionals among our small to medium-sized clients across the central belt. This demand has led us to adopt a retained and partnership-based approach with our clients, allowing us to effectively present each role to both active and passive candidates in the market.

Contract roles

  • Whilst the finance market remains consistently busy across the commerce & industry space in Glasgow, we are seeing an increased demand for temporary & FTC candidates across all levels, which may have be a key indicator of the wider industry challenges i.e. interest rates/inflation.
  • As companies look to balance their budgets while still addressing staffing needs, hiring temporary and FTC candidates offers a cost-effective solution, providing flexibility without the long-term financial commitment of permanent staff. Additionally, as companies require extra support to manage the closing of accounts and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, temporary staff help manage these peak periods efficiently.
  • Overall, the trend reflects a strategic approach to workforce management, allowing companies to remain agile and responsive to both opportunities and challenges in the market.


  • Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors are becoming increasingly important, leading to a demand for professionals who can integrate these considerations into financial planning and reporting. It isn’t just big firms that are now focused on these factors, we are seeing SMEs also begin to assess their ESG strategy. Candidates, particularly those of a younger generation, are more concerned than ever about a business’ impact on the environment, the local community and the world as a whole. Some large businesses are showing interest in ESG specific accountants, who will assess KPI metrics around these factors and the additional cost of incorporating the necessary measures.
    Accountancy firm AAB have recently introduced an ESG division to combat the increased regulatory requirements –


Newsworthy Items

In the lead-up to the election, we’ve observed a surge in tax hiring within the finance and legal sectors. With Labour poised to win, the demand for professional tax advisors is already increasing. High net worth individuals are leaving the UK in significant numbers, presenting a budgetary challenge for Labour. For tax recruitment, 2024 could either be a peak year or the start of even greater demand.

The impact of the budget on tax recruitment is clear. March 2024 set a record for tax vacancies, surpassing even the peak post-pandemic months of 2021. A recent Bloomberg report highlighted that the UK is expected to see 9,500 millionaires leave, second only to China. Although Keir Starmer has assured there will be no changes to VAT, income tax, or NICs, it is anticipated that the overall tax revenue will need to increase. This suggests a sustained or rising need for tax professionals moving forward.


ICAS welcomes record number of CAs

ICAS announced that in April that nearly 850 new Chartered Accountants will join the professional body, a record number for the institution. ICAS also claims they have seen an increased number of professionals qualifying from broad economic backgrounds. This more diverse base will help to bring a wider range of life experience to the accountancy profession across the country.

Everyone at Iconic would like to congratulate the new members on their achievements!


Growth in the private sector in Scotland

The private sector in Scotland grew for the fifth month running in May 2024, reaching 55.2 on the RBS Business Activity Index. This is the highest figure in two years. Insider notes that the service sector in Scotland was the primary driver for this growth, with manufacturing continuing to decline. This resulted in a jobs growth in the service sector in May, aided also by the slowing of inflation.


CIMA and ACCA Exams

CIMA exams were sat in May, with results expected from June, we hope you receive the results you deserve! Finally, a good luck to everyone sitting ACCA exams in the next intake in June.