Accountancy firms are becoming increasingly worried there will be a recruitment crisis if more people do not consider a career in the industry.
There has been a big drop in the number of people taking entry exams for accountancy, which could spark concern in future years when there are not enough professionals to deal with businesses’ finances. Indeed, while 103,000 people sat the CPA exam five years ago, just 72,271 did in 2021, and 43,000 sat it during the first half of 2022.
Speaking with the Financial Times, chief executive of Deloitte’s US audit business Lara Abrash said: “As a profession, our ability to protect the public interest could be at risk.”
Some say the entrance exams are a deterrent for potential accountants, as they have to continue to study beyond their further education. However, the big four firms, KPMG, Deloitte Ernst & Young and PwC, provide schemes that include the assessments while on the job.
Christina Ho, a member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, also noted that starting salaries could be putting off some candidates, as they typically earn less than IT professionals and data scientists when they start out.
“In my opinion, this is a crisis,” Ms Ho stated, adding: “We cannot afford a world with no accountants or a capital market with no auditors.”
Ms Abrash stated that it is not just about pay, however, as “this is not a generation that is all about money”.
As more people are aware of their mental health and work-life balance, it has become increasingly important they have a positive working environment.
This is an area accountancy firms have to work on, as a survey by FloQast revealed 99 per cent of accountants admitted to experiencing chronic workplace stress. Nearly a quarter reported medium-high or high levels of burnout. Four-fifths of accountants reported they have had at least one month-end close in the past year disrupt their personal lives, and 43 per cent had experienced disruption in more than three months of the year.
Mike Whitmire, co-founder and chief executive officer of FloQast, told Accountancy Sage: “With fluctuating economies, leaders ad organisations must take these challenges seriously and address them if they want to see exceptional growth.”
He noted it is “time for a massive shift”, as not only is burnout affecting staff, but it is also having an impact on work productivity and quality. Nearly half had to re-open the books in three or more months of the year, and 85 per cent had to re-open them at least to fix errors in the last year.
As well as this shift to improve the workplace environment for accountants, the economic downfall could spark a return to accountancy, according to Colleen Conrad, executive vice-president of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
She noted that when the economy is doing well, those who could go into accounting often end up in finance. However, when the economic is not faring so well and there are lots of redundancies in the finance industry, more people flock to accounting as “you can always get a job as a CPA”.
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