Legal and finance contractors see demand surge

Monday 24 June 2013

Contractors in the legal and financial sectors could be in a position to exploit growing demand for temporary expertise in the City, according to a new report.

Badenoch and Clark’s Talent Spotlight for May 2013 found that contract vacancies in accounting and finance and the legal sector rose sharply during the month, becoming top performers for self-employed professionals.

Vacancies open to contractors in accounting and financial services shot up by 14 per cent from the previous month, accounting for a sizeable chunk of the 33 per cent increase from the same period in 2013. Auditors fared particularly well, with a rise in vacancies of 27 per cent from April - nearly double last year’s figure. Reporting was the other major growth hotspot, shooting up by a quarter over the month and by 36 per cent over the course of the past twelve months.

Interestingly, contractor vacancies rose faster than permanent openings, which increased by an encouraging 9.1 per cent in the finance sector but remained three per cent below performance a year earlier.

Flexible workers with legal experience were the other sector to perform particularly strongly. Legal contract vacancies shot up by just under 12 per cent compared to April’s figure, contributing to a very healthy increase of more than 53 per cent compared to May last year. The areas showing the most dramatic improvement included litigation, where non-permanent vacancies rocketed by 98 per cent over the month and as much as 229 per cent compared to just one year earlier. Although not on the same scale, family law specialists also saw a spike in demand of 25 per cent month-on-month, contributing to a 52 per cent annual rise.

But law is another area in which demand for short-term expertise outstripped the need for permanent employees. Demand for permanent staff rose by 10.6 per cent, but remained more than nine per cent below the figures achieved 12 months ago.

Widespread regulatory change within the financial services sector is thought to be affecting hiring patterns. Indeed, a survey published earlier this month by recruiters Robert Half UK found that three out of ten chief financial officers (CFOs) said they had increased their use of temporary and interim workers compared to three years ago.

Businesses appear to be relying more heavily on contract workers for some of their most business-critical processes. Three years ago, temporary staff made up less than a fifth of the total headcount in financial departments around the UK, but more than a year after new regulations were introduced the figure stands at 26 per cent. In small businesses, the figure reached 30 per cent, perhaps because smaller firms are more likely to experience fluctuations in demand, which make permanent hires less feasible.

Around 16 per cent of CFOs expect audit, compliance and corporate governance to be one of the areas with heaviest demand for contract staff. A slightly higher proportion expect risk management and financial IT systems to be areas of growth for flexible workers, but top of the list is general operational accountancy.

Phil Sheridan, managing director of Robert Half UK, says that “by continuing to capitalise on the readily available and highly trained temporary and interim market, businesses can adjust more easily and quickly to workload variations, and bring in specialists with the required experiences to run particular programmes".

By Victoria McDonnell

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