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The reasons for Ireland’s fund accountant shortage and how to bypass it

The Irish market is currently experiencing a serious fund accountant shortage. In Ireland, there are an estimated 15 000 people employed in fund administration of which approximately 45-50% are fund accountants. The shortage is biting and anyone recruiting in fund administration needs to be agile in the way they approach their staffing needs. Understanding the reasons for the shortage and how to attract the best talent in a candidate short market is key to finding a solution.

A candidate shortage six years in the making

Looking back to 2009, the collapse of major funds and the state of global markets at the time resulted in large scale redundancy programmes. This major drive to cut costs resulted in both experienced and graduate fund accountants moving abroad to find work. At this time, almost all graduate recruitment drives were put on hold or abandoned altogether. Many of these drives have only just being reinstated in the past year or so. 
In the years following the collapse, the market recovered at a slow pace while focus turned to the Investor Services/Transfer Agency space and specifically AML. Some fund accountants were attracted to this buoyant space which further reduced the fund accountant numbers. Through 2012-13 candidates began to receive multiple offers and talented individuals were frequently receiving counter-offers. As the market began to show signs of genuine recovery and new funds were launched, candidates could afford to take their time and be quite particular about the role they accepted. There was also a notable increase in graduate intake for the first time. Some clients went as far as to hire entire teams of graduates, bypassing the candidate shortage. 

The market revival outpaces the number of available specialists

2014 was extremely busy across AML, investor services and fund accounting; candidates with 2-4 experience in particular, were highly sought after. Available candidates were able to achieve increases in salary of up to 20-25% as companies battled to attract the best people from a shallow talent pool. Candidates were routinely counter-offered and enjoying a sense of confidence not felt for many years. Towards the end of 2014 there was a sense of panic in trying to fill open positions due to the scarcity of available candidates and we entered 2015 with the hope that the market would slow down. The new year also saw the return of graduate programmes with most FS institutions.
As we enter the latter part of 2015, the candidate shortage remains apparent at fund accountant, senior fund accountant and supervisory levels. Today, most candidates are counter offered by their current employer, salaries are steadily increasing while employers are having to think of new ways to attract the few candidates that are willing to move.

New approaches to bypassing the candidate shortage

Successful employers have implemented flexible working hours and allowed individuals to work from home, while some have even considered a four day working week. Candidates are now typically offered after just one interview and can be off market within a week of commencing their search. These recruitment conditions are indicative of both the candidate shortage and the measures employers are willing to take in order to fill roles.  
With this in mind, speed and client sales pitches to candidates have now become a vital part of any recruitment process, with a missed call or calendar inflexibility enough to scupper a potential hire. Clients need to be agile in their approach and sell their business and culture to candidates who likely have offers elsewhere. Another key consideration is to look toward candidates who come from different professional backgrounds whose soft skills make them capable of succeeding in the world of fund administration. A cultural and personality fit is now equally important. 
If you are looking to hire for any type of finance role, please contact Michael Page Ireland to discuss your recruitment needs.