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How to navigate the current shortage of qualified finance candidates in real estate

Blog Posts  (5)

Article posted by Simon Jobson on Feb 14, 2024

​The knock-on effects of Covid-19 on the employment landscape continue to hinder finance recruitment, with fewer qualified candidates coming through their ACA and ACCA qualifications than before the pandemic ensued. Here, we look at how this is still affecting the Real Estate sector specifically and how employers can navigate the challenges of it.

How qualified finance recruitment has been affected

Initially in 2020, there was a two-fold impact on the progress and support provided for graduates and trainees entering the accounting profession. The ICAEW was unable to hold June 2020 exams (as social distancing measures meant they couldn’t hold them in person), and over 3/5 firms had to delay or cancel placements, meaning that candidates weren’t able to gain valuable experience and complete the hours they needed to pass their exams.

From our interaction with thousands of candidates who had been in the process of studying, the challenge to then get into the overbooked exam slots or attend in-person exams during the rest of 2020 and 2021 understandably left some individuals nervous about their career choice, seeing self-studiers slow down their studies, or those with part-qualifications leaving the sector altogether.

What it’s meant for Real Estate Finance Recruitment

This has had a profound effect on finance positions across all sectors, let alone within real estate.

As we said in 2022, salaries tend to rise in relation to demand, and as there is such a demand at the moment for qualified finance professionals, the premium is high, with salaries for job titles like Financial Accountant and Finance Manager having risen typically by 15-20% over the past 3 years.

As organisations compete for these qualified professionals highly skilled in areas like statutory reporting, 5-year forecasting, and group consolidations, that also have the soft skills of stakeholder management, figure presentation and communication, what can the real estate sector do to navigate the challenge of a smaller pool of qualified professionals to choose from?

Hiring a part-qualified professional – the right way

Whilst not every role can have someone part-qualified in-post, we have seen a rising trend in organisations opting to hire a part-qualified candidate or someone in the final stages of sitting exams, instead of holding out for the qualified professional. Since 2020, we’ve seen 40% of the roles where a qualification has been mandated, opting to fill their role with a part-qualified or finalist candidate, compared with just 10% in the same period up to and including 2019 – something we’re far from unique in doing as an agency.

There is still great value in these part-qualified or finalist candidates. For example, in our recent work with a boutique real estate investment management specialist, we placed a part-qualified candidate when originally mandated for a Qualified Finance Manager. The individual who secured the role had excellent experience from, and time spent within a FTSE 100 Real Estate Investment Manager, and was able to provide an as good if not better impact and critical look at process improvement, compared to a qualified individual that would have exceeded the budget.

By appointing a part-qualified or finalist candidate, you may be able to offer a reduced salary and stay on budget compared to the premium required for a qualified one, in exchange for providing study support to the candidate, both in the form of time to take their exams and in financial support them to complete them. This in-turn can see you benefit from increased loyalty from the new employee (especially if contracted to be with your organisation for a stated period post-qualification).

Where a specialist finance recruiter can help

In such a competitive market for qualified finance candidates – and those who are part-qualified but have the appropriate skills to fill qualified roles, working with a specialist recruitment agency that understands finance in the real estate sector, can help you and your role stand out.

From work on your EVP (Employer Value Proposition) to make sure that you’re showcasing the key facets that potential employees are after, to working with you on your job descriptions, a specialist consultancy will understand the spectrum of roles and organisations out there in the market and what candidates want so your organisation and role stands out.

We at Cobalt have a database of over 30,000 qualified and part-qualified permanent and interim finance candidates, solely from within the real estate sector. We have pre-paid partnerships with sector-specific job boards to ensure that your opportunity is viewed by the optimum audience every time, and have a LinkedIn page to promote your vacant role to that has over 60,000 followers.

These resources combined with a focused and experienced team of consultants ensure that you will see a shortlist that is relevant and gives the best insight into available (and passive) finance talent in the Real Estate Market.

If you want to talk further about any recruitment challenges you’re having across permanent or interim finance roles, and see the shortlist we can put together for you, please do get in touch.

Email: SJobson@cobaltrecruitment.com

Phone: +44(0)207 478 2536

See our latest roles available across Real Estate and Construction here.