The hospitality, tourism, entertainment and aviation were the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The financial services sector felt the impact less, and showed only little movement in the labour market for finance professionals. However, international recruitment firm Robert Walters sees a need for Accounting & Reporting Specialists within the financial services sector.
Consultant Stephen Fournier explains what makes this role different to the one in other sectors and what it takes to make the switch.
What does an Accounting & Reporting Specialist within the financial services sector do exactly?
Stephen: “Within the financial services sector, an Accounting & Reporting Specialist will ensure the preparation and publication of the statutory and consolidated accounts with regulatory authorities, in accordance with BE GAAP or IFRS rules. He or she will also be responsible for interpreting numbers and providing relevant analyses. As an Accounting & Reporting Specialist, you’re also actively involved in the monthly closings and reporting process. It’s a very analytical role, as current accounting and reporting processes need to be reviewed and recommendations need to be drawn up in order to optimise existing operations.
Besides this, the Accounting & Reporting Specialist will ensure the preparation and coordination of external audits. But the external auditors are not the only people he or she will interact with. The Accounting & Reporting Specialist is working closely together with various stakeholders like the risk management team or the compliance team for example, to make sure figures are well-interpreted and the correct analysis and reporting can be presented to management. It’s a very diverse and multitasking role, and even includes participation in process optimisation and digital transformation to help improve existing procedures.”
What is the ideal background for a successful Accounting & Reporting Specialist?
“Having a Master or Bachelor degree in Accounting, Finance or Economics is a good start, and a CPA certification is a valuable asset”, says Stephen. “In order to start in an Accounting & Reporting Specialist role within the financial services sector, prior experience is not an absolute must, so it’s also a great starting position for graduates. Graduates will have an accounting background from their education and required hard skills can be learned ‘on the job’, either by other team members or by the Accounting & Reporting Manager who’s leading the team.”
In order to become successful in this role, having the right soft skills is more important. Stephen: “It’s a very analytical role, so the Accounting & Reporting Specialist needs to be well-organised, with a strong eye for detail, an analytical mindset and able to work under pressure, as there are a lot of deadlines to be met. Being flexible is also required, in order to be in line with new requirements, processes and procedures that need to be implemented. The role also includes involvement in further digitalisation projects together with the IT team. Being in frequent contact with both internal and external parties means that the Accounting & Reporting Specialist needs to demonstrate strong communication skills and a thorough knowledge of either French or Dutch, in combination with English, particularly when working in an international environment. Eagerness to learn, being enthusiastic and proactive is what defines successful Accounting & Reporting Specialists.”
Is transferring from an industry role to an accounting & reporting specialist role in the financial services sector a feasible career choice?
“It’s feasible, but the role of an Accounting & Reporting Specialist in an industry sector is completely different compared to the one in the financial services sector. Within the industry sector, the job content remains pretty much the same, regardless the sector you work in. But within the financial services sector, the financial statements are laid out differently for example, and the IFRS rules are not the same neither. People considering a move from an accounting & reporting role within any sector to the financial services sector, will need to gain this specific expertise first. Febelfin Academy’s certifications and trainings for example are a great way to do so.”
A recent Robert Walters survey revealed that 36% of finance professionals rank job security even higher than salary nowadays. The past year has been difficult for many sectors: some people were made redundant or put on temporary unemployment, or feared to lose their job. The corona-pandemic had less impact on the financial services sector. Stephen: “That’s right. In the past year, we haven’t seen any big movements within this sector. The majority of people stayed put, mainly because of the job security the financial services sector provides, but also because they are usually happy in their role and the organisation, and committed to stay for the long run.”
Many organisations within the sector are currently reviewing their work policy. The past year has proven that remote working workers, and the majority of people are even more productive when working from home. “Post-corona, we expect that many financial institutions will allow their employees to work from home for at least 50% of the time if they are keen to do so, and they are currently developing new tools to improve and encourage remote working."
So yes, for professionals who are interested in flexible working within a stable environment, joining the financial services sector is definitely a good career choice.
And what about accounting & reporting professionals who want to move from the financial services sector to an industry role?
Stephen: “That’s an easier option and more straight forward, to be honest. Not a lot of people make that career choice, but those who do are mainly the most ambitious ones who are keen to grow into a Head of Reporting role or a CFO position. Within the financial services sector, such career opportunities are rather limited, due to the small number of existing structures.”
What salary can an Accounting & Reporting Specialist expect?
“It depends on the size of the organisation you work for and the level of experience you have. Graduates who start in an accounting & reporting role within financial services usually have a gross monthly salary between 2,500 – 3,500 EUR. Mid-level professionals with around 5 years of experience can count on a salary of around 4,500 EUR gross per month. Being in a Team leader, Manager or Head of Accounting & Reporting role, the salary can rise up to 8,000 EUR gross per month. There are also other extra-legal benefits of course, such as lunch vouchers or a company restaurant, a group and hospitalisation insurance, a laptop and mobile phone. Depending on the organisation’s internal policy, a company car and fuel card might also be part of the salary package”, concludes Stephen.
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