Market Review 2020

Author: Iain McLeod – Accounting & Finance Recruitment Specialist within the Property, Funds, Wealth & Insurance Sectors.

What can I say about 2020 that has not been covered already? It was a once in a lifetime collision of health, geopolitics and the global economy.  Neither the dot-com crash nor GFC stopped the employment market so suddenly in Australia as the COVID19 pandemic did in early March 2020.

That said, the industries we service (Commercial Property, Funds Management, Wealth and Insurance) which were so devasted in the GFC were not so immediately and directly impacted.

This may be a surprise to some, however most clients who we work with not only continued to recruit and onboard new staff at home but have more employees in accounting & finance roles than at the beginning of 2020 and are looking to recruit further in the coming months.

This overview is brief, however hopefully gives some insight into which type of roles are in demand and skillsets that are in short supply.

Firstly, an overview of the types of roles and activity levels:
Prevalent themes of 2020/The Pandemic Period

Focus on Statutory & Regulatory Obligations

At the start of the 2020 pandemic, hiring companies focused on what had to be done, not what they would like to do.  There became a strong need to ensure that as staff started to work from home, they also continued to provide a high level of quality.

Our clientsfocused on their statutory and regulatory obligations, deciding to cancel or postpone any projects, system migrations, as well as the recruitment of roles in FP&A and Business Partnering. Deals were hard to come by. Business partnering, commercial analysis was hampered due to strong focus of having the BAU work completed without disruption.

Impacts of immigration demographics.

As Australians we travel and work overseas more than most national comparisons. This is not a new theme but more emphasized during 2020 and remains so.  Most Australians do not emigrate forever though – their overseas trip may turn into a 5, 10 or 20 year period, however most return home at some point.

Accounting & Finance professionals set out as a newly qualified accountants, analysts or associates and return as a FC, CFO CRO or COO.  This added to transfers of skilled labor in local offices of multinational groups to leads of greater imbalance of supply & demand in the senior end of the market.

At the junior end of the market, Australian companies have historically benefited from a migration of junior qualified accountants to fill roles in practice and commerce, including an uninterrupted stream of professionals entering on working holiday visas to support both contract/temporary hiring as well as transitioning into the junior finance market. This has not happened since early 2020, and not likely to recommence until 2022. This has led to a shortage of candidates in this space which will not be abated until our borders open.

Local Businesses Reluctance to Train

As there was such a strong focus on ensuring that work was completed without disruption, the option to hire grads or limited experience dramatically reduced. Businesses chose hires that were trained or had a strong skill set that could be transferred to the role.

This resulted in more grads/newly skilled staff not being considered for junior roles due to lack of time and available staff to train up.

Middle Management Depletion/Erosion

Since the GFC, finance structures have flattened, with the reduction in number of Senior Manager and Financial Controller roles across the market. In 2020 we experienced a continuation in this trend. There were very few redundancies over the past year in accounting & finance roles, however where there have been it is in the middle management positions.  As we move to technology aided individual contributor models, where specialist professionals operate in a review/oversight capacity, the need for middle management will continue to erode and as we experienced in 2020 it will be the area to reduce cost in a finance/accounting structure.

Onshore or Nearshore the New Offshore?

Like other industries, supply chains were disrupted. Some shared service centers struggled to operate in their work from home transition with some roles being repositioned onshore and/or to a remote working location in Australia.

Clients that were serviced offshore experienced disruption which in turn led them to question if an offshore function was going to be the best service for them. Companies started to review their processes and bring work back onshore which resulted in clients wanting the work to remain onshore.

Intuitive Recruitment ( is a Specialist Accounting & Finance Recruitment Consultancy servicing the Property, Funds and Wealth Management sectors in APAC.

If you would like to discuss career objectives, job opportunities or are looking to hire in your team, please contact Iain McLeod at [email protected]