Today we meet Jo Howell, our specialist Financial Services and Accountancy recruiter. We find out a little about her role, who she works with, her thoughts on the past year and how 2021 is looking to shape up for the industry.
Tell us a little about yourself
I joined Cathedral Appointments in 2012 after 20 years in recruitment, spanning the whole of the UK – Aberdeen, Home Counties, Greater Manchester and the South West! In my current role, I recruit for both Financial Services and Accountancy professionals, working mostly with those who are part-qualified and above.
What type of companies do you work for?
Everything and anything! SMEs and one-man bands, Wealth Advice, Insurance, Accountancy Practice, Bespoke Wealth Offices, Regional Offices and more. It’s a huge variety and every piece of recruitment is different.
How has it all been during the pandemic?
A complete rollercoaster – we've never been in this territory before and there’s certainly been plenty of learning curves. I have worked through recessions and times of economic hardship, but the unpredictability of COVID-19 is a new beast. Clients are having to second guess their recruitment, a lot of which has been reactive to match the ever-changing market needs.
It’s clear as well that the candidate market has been shrinking, despite such huge levels of unemployment and redundancies. Clients don’t have the flexibility for training and so need candidates to match as closely as possible to their needs right now – and so the choice of applicants, especially for technical roles, is few and far between.
Can you provide a little insight about what it’s been like for both your clients and candidates?
The process of interviews has been much easier since coming online. People are more readily available and time frames are a lot shorter – a big plus for both candidates and clients.
For clients, there’s been the added challenge of keeping employees motivated when promotions aren’t as readily available as they were only nine months ago. They have needed to adapt certain elements of the day-to-day to boost morale and engagement such as online social events, gifting, mental health support and more.
What positive trends can we expect to see in 2021 in Finance recruitment in general?
For the South West, and Exeter specifically, there will undoubtedly be an uplift of candidates to the area. Not only is this good for businesses, but it is a positive for our local economy. This uplift will be driven predominantly by a need for lifestyle changes post-pandemic, with many moving out of big cities and opting for greener space, as well as the ability to work remotely.
Clients have got over the hump of presenteeism and most are now much more flexible, especially when it comes with working timetables. The office 9 - 5 is slowly but surely dissolving, making way for a much more agile, hybrid way of working.
We’ve seen a much-needed improvement in technology over the past nine months. Clients have had to improve technological capabilities to ensure employees can work from home efficiently and effectively. This investment is only going to continue into the New Year so companies can stay competitive and offer high-quality services to anyone from anywhere.
Do you expect to see similar patterns in demand for Finance roles as in previous years?
Yes, I think it’s going to take another six months, at least, to settle down, but I think we will be back to more normal levels from Q3. There will be a pent-up demand of clients who couldn’t hire over the year or so but when confidence increases and financial situations become more stable, there will be an influx of demand like we’ve never seen before.
Will there be more digitalisation of Finance roles?
Yes, over the next year there will be a lot more automation which I believe will have a balance of positives and negatives. Automation will increase the ever-growing working-from-home model as employees won’t need to travel to physical offices to do their jobs. This will consequently help their local economies as they’ll spend time (and money) working in small, independent coffee shops and purchasing lunches from deli-style cafes. However, automation may also mean that, especially across larger companies, we may see job losses. With computers doing human-driven jobs, there will be a need for companies to be leaner.
2020 has been a testing year for many within the industry but, there’s silver linings on the horizon and, with a bounded sense of optimism, I look forward to what 2021 has in store.