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Is it 'safe' to recruit now?

24th February 2020

Companies in Kent, Surrey and Sussex seem to think so, as job opportunities grow alongside confidence in the economy.

Despite recent news reminding us that there was little to celebrate about the last quarter of 2019, our recruitment figures for January 2020 tell a different story. It’s a far more positive one, not just for us, but for companies and candidates who put recruitment and job-hunting on hold during the uncertain year that was 2019.

January figures reflect upward trend in financial recruitment

Although not traditionally a popular month for hiring, January this year has bucked the trend. In Kent, Surrey and Sussex, we’ve had our biggest January since launching Grafton Banks Finance over a decade ago; turnover is up 79% on last January. It would appear as if the decisive general election has boosted confidence and got companies to take the brakes off recruitment.

Figures from the KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs for January show this is a country-wide trend, although recruitment has seen a slightly greater increase in the South than in other parts of England, including London. They reported a modest increase in both permanent appointments and vacancies.

What it means for businesses looking to recruit finance-related roles

In the final quarter of 2019 in particular, the feedback we got from our clients was that uncertainty around Brexit and the lack of business investment meant they had put recruitment plans on hold.

The Brexit question is now resolved. Although 2020 will likely still be volatile, given that it will be a year of trade negotiations with the EU, according to the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Report – January 2020, there are early signs that UK growth is picking up and that the global economy is stabilising.

Most relevant to us and our clients is that the KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs for January showed that “The quickest expansion in [permanent] vacancies was seen in Accounting/ Financial, closely followed by Engineering.”

Given the persistent scarcity of qualified people in finance and accounting in the South, and that there’s been a decline in qualified professionals from the EU, competition for top-class candidates is likely to be fierce. If a significant number of companies suddenly start recruiting in the next few months, this could make competition even tougher.

What it means for accountants and finance professionals

If you’ve been wanting to move jobs over the last year, now’s a good time to start looking.

Our own experience of the market beginning to pick up is reflected in the figures in the KPMG and REC, South of England Report on Jobs for January: “The number of people placed into permanent roles in the South of England rose for the first time in 11 months in January. Though modest, the rate of expansion was the strongest recorded since January 2019.”

If you do want to contract or work in an interim role, but are concerned about the impact of IR35, don’t let that scare you into applying for a permanent role though. We’re working closely with our contractors and clients to put in place measures that will keep everyone on the right side of the new tax rules when they come into play in April.

So, is it “safe” to recruit now?

That is always going to be a tricky question to answer. Besides the outcome of the trade negotiations with the EU, there’s currently a lot of speculation around the effects coronavirus could have on the economy, especially on companies sourcing goods and components from China.

However, if recruitment figures are anything to go by, which we know they are, then more and more companies in the South of England seem to think the answer to that is ‘yes’.

To discuss the current climate for job-hunting and recruiting accounting or financial professionals in Kent, Surrey or Sussex, speak to one of our consultants. We have an office near you.

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