A spate of resignations and an increasingly stretched labour market have highlighted glaring skill gaps in the professional services and finance sectors, according to Punit Jain, co-founder at Corient, an outsourcing solution for businesses and accounting.
“The current climate has highlighted the need for adaptability and exposed a shortage of suitable skillsets within the finance industry, specifically in accounting firms,” says Jain.
“Firms are facing the unique challenge of finding the right people to fill their requirements.”
ONS data from earlier this year shows that, if there is no marked increase in qualification levels, the UK could face a “high skills” deficit of 2.5 million people by 2030.
It also depicts a skills shortage density of 27 percent in the business services industry, equating to 48,900 skills shortage vacancies.
According to Jain, this fraught climate highlights the advantages of outsourcing accounting processes, particularly for smaller firms struggling to manage the balance between retaining and acquiring clients.
“It’s a catch 22 situation for smaller firms. They are very good at bringing in new clients, but often have to turn them away due to a lack of capacity.”
Jain also highlights the struggles that smaller firms face when it comes to personnel, arguing that many are simply not in a position to expand.
“They don’t want to hire more full-time staff because the workload fluctuates, and they may not have sufficient office space. There is also the worry that they will train staff who then leave for a bigger firm in six months’ time.”
However, Jain readily acknowledges that Corient itself must tackle the same issues, in addition to the broader challenges of an increasingly limited and candidate-led labour market.
He explains that Corient has “built robust processes” to acquire and nurture talent, citing key examples such as its dedicated in-house training team, interactive training app, in-house training content development team, and a variety of HR tools and methodologies.
“We take a scientific approach to establish a better talent pool,” he says.
“We’ve adopted cognitive assessment tools which not only help us to get the right team members for Corient, but also to match the specific requirements and cultures of the firms we work with.”
The same applies to retention strategies, Jain adds, again noting a range of initiatives including a quarterly reward and recognition programme “based on company values”, a monthly “growth conversation” with each employee (to develop leaders and identify training gaps, for instance), and a proactive approach to wellbeing.
The value of outsourcing
Jain goes on to stress the importance of smaller firms offloading processes to a third party in the current climate, arguing that a reluctance to do so would risk slow response times to clients, people management issues, and an inability to free up time.
However, he adds the caveat that selecting an outsourcing partner can often be a challenging process. For instance, many other outsourcing companies lack the right personnel, the ability to securely handle data and the ability to help a practice scale up quickly, he argues.
“As the accountant’s role has developed from compliance into advisory work, the expectation from an outsourcing partner is higher.
“They need someone who can advise them on best practices, systems, controls and processes with continuous improvement.”
This is precisely where Corient seeks to add value, Jain says, first acknowledging the company’s tech-driven approach as a key area.
“Many traditional firms are still behind in their digital journey and rely heavily on outsourcing firms to bring them up to speed by providing tech-driven services.
“At Corient, we have dedicated IT team which works closely with our operations team to develop integration tools and applications to bring in more efficiency.”
Jain cites a number of other key value areas for Corient, including communication structure, management experience and company culture, but draws particular attention to “trustworthiness”, arguing that this is often lacking among business solutions firms.
“When considering an outsourcing option, it is important to consider how long the company has been established, what types of clients they work with, the performance of the operations team, the quality of work and references from current clients,” he says.
“Outsourcing is a long-term relationship and trust is the main ingredient for any successful relationship.”