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Big pay deals back as firms bid to keep top staff

  • 35% of resigning accountants now offered a rise to stay – up from just 12.5% last year
  • On average they are offered 15% more pay by their employers to stay put – up from 5% in 2009
  • Surge of counter-offers in UK caused by stalling pay over last 24 months

Massive salary rises offered by employers to accountants who tell them they are resigning to take a new job are on the rise, according to financial services recruiter Marks Sattin.

Seven of every 20 accountants in the UK are being counter-offered now, compared to just one in eight last year.

The average rise offered in a counter-offer in the UK has risen from 5% in 2009 to 15% in 2010.

The phenomenon is being experienced in both practice and industry. Industries where counter-offers are most prevalent include retail; media; oil, gas, and mining; and private equity.

But London is performing better than the rest of the UK. Seven out of every 10 candidates are now being offered more money to stay in their roles, and counter-offers of up to 25-30% of base salary are not unheard of.

Dave Way, managing director of Marks Sattin says, “The resurgence of the counter-offer is proof not only of the economic recovery but also a result of corporate restructuring and greater banking regulation that is driving demand for middle managers. Companies are having to work hard to hold on to their valuable employees again. Big employers were caught out by how quick the market recovered. Many employers did not increase salaries for their current staff proactively over the last couple of years and they are now reacting to changing market conditions. It leaves employees feeling very frustrated and relying on a counter-offer strategy in this type of market is ultimately very costly. Today we are once again seeing quality accounting and finance professionals with numerous job offers on the table at any one time. Employees know they have options.”

Just a year ago, candidates were typically offered one job out of three interviews - a 33% success rate. Now, in 2010, they are being offered two or three jobs out of five interviews - a 50% success rate.

Seven out of every 10 successful applicants are in multiple bidding offers. Clearly, this recent growth in counter-offers demonstrates not only improvements in the market but also an increasing sense of self-worth and confidence from the accountancy profession.

Despite the soaring market in the capital, the UK is failing to keep pace with global rival, Singapore. The market for skilled accountants in Singapore is burning white hot and this is reflected in the size of the rises being offered there. The average rise has hit 20% this year, although Marks Sattin has seen rises of 50% offered to tempt departing accountants to stay at the firm. But despite the size of the payouts, just two out of every ten accountants in Singapore receive counter-offers.

In Hong Kong, three out of 10 accountants now receive counter-offers, up from just two out of 10 to in 2009. The average rise presented in a counter-offer has also increased, from 13% last year to 20% today, although some investment banks are offering as much as 35%. While counter-offering is prevalent in industry - particularly banking - it is not as common in practice.

In Dubai, the number of rises employers have offered employees last year was negligible - as employers continued to lower headcounts and concentrate on managing staff costs. The average rise presented in a counter-offer has increased to 12.5% today, from 0% in 2009. The number of accountants being offered a rise by employers to stay on at their current job, has risen to four in every 10 - as opposed to zero in 10 in 2009 and one in 10 in 2008. Accountants working in IT, and media, are most likely to be counter-offered by their current employers.

In Ireland, the average percentage of salary offered in a counter-offer is similar to that of the UK at 12.5%. In 2009, only one in four accountants were counter- offered. That’s now risen to one in three. Despite the macro-economic turmoil sweeping Ireland, the counter-offer trend is continuing. The phenomenon is particularly acute in practice where eight out of every 10 accountants are now being counter-offered. The salary increases are also slightly higher in practice, with average rises of 15% being offered.

While there has not been a recent increase in counter-offers over the past few years, in Australia three out of every 10 accountants are still being offered rises when they threaten to leave their employer. Finance professionals in the commercial sector are more likely to receive higher counter-offers than their counterparts in banking. The statistics also showed that in Australia, men working in accountancy can expect higher counter-offers than women.

Dave Way, managing director of Marks Sattin says: “It’s no surprise that Dubai, Dublin and the UK are making the most counter-offers. These are the markets where caps on pay have been tightest over the last two years. Effectively, these counter-offers are making up for lost time. In Singapore, the economy has been booming and wages have not been frozen.”

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