16/07/2002 - 22:00

Accountants’ five-year itch

16/07/2002 - 22:00

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A DESIRE to see the world and further careers has caused a shortage of accountants with between three to five years’ experience.

Accountants’ five-year itch
A DESIRE to see the world and further careers has caused a shortage of accountants with between three to five years’ experience.

The shortage is similar to that faced by the legal fraternity, which is suffering from a lack of lawyers in the three to five-years’ experience band.

In both sectors the lure of working overseas is proving an attractive option for professionals.

Another problem comes from accountants deciding they no longer want to be in practise, instead transferring to the world of commerce.

Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia WA regional manager Con Abbott said the shortage was caused by a number of young accountants that received their official certification and then went overseas.

It usually takes three years of professional practise for an accountant to be accredited to either CPA Australia or institute standards.

“We have more than 5,000 members overseas out of a membership of 37,000. And it has to be considered that 45 per cent of our membership is in commerce and not in practise,” he said.

“This will undoubtedly become a growing problem as we go forward if this trend of young practitioners leaving Australia continues.”

PKF managing partner Neil Smith said his firm had noticed the shortage of auditors.

“We’ve had to rely on international secondments to meet some of our needs,” he said.

Gel Group senior account manager Samantha Bowker said the three to five-year bracket was crunch time for accountants.

“They find they want to move themselves into managerial positions. Some move into commerce,” she said.

“The big four accounting firms are only looking for the high achievers.”

Ernst & Young human resources manager Tony Ackland admitted there was a shortage but said there wasn’t a huge amount of demand from the bigger firms.

“If an accountant is a high performer in that experience bracket then he or she will find there is good remuneration out there for them,” he said.

“For us, we’ve found retention is at an all-time high. Our firm has also grown considerably. We took on about 100 new people this year – before we absorb-

ed the people from Andersen.”

Mr Ackland said there were accountants completing their certifications and heading off to Europe.

“But with us people are usually taking extended leave to do their European trip and then coming back,” he said. “At the same time, supply should also be picking up. The European market has gone down and a lot of expatriate accountants are coming back.”

Mr Ackland said some accountants used accounting firms as a “finishing school”. “Some have an ambition to become the chief financial officer at a listed company somewhere so they do their professional certification time with a firm and then move into commerce once that is completed,” he said.

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