We take a number of calls every year from companies looking to recruit accountants or accountancy staff. Very often the conversation will start with a request for a suitably qualified accountant to undertake the usual range of financial analysis, budgeting, forecasting and dealing with the statutory accounts.
Do You Really Need a Management Accountant?
When we delve deeper into these requirements we are sometimes surprised to find that in fact the firm are looking for a bookkeeper who is also able to undertake all of these extra tasks. Similarly we are sometimes interested to note that a firm require a management accountant who, by the way, can also deal with the accounts on a daily basis.
Or are you looking for a Finance Director?
We regularly come across requests for accountants to undertake ‘entrepreneurial work’ as well, generating new income or working in business development, as well as providing budgetary analysis and forecasting.
Do These Candidates Exist?
I have to say that on the whole these candidates do not exist. Whilst you may be lucky and find someone who has worked in an entrepreneurial role either running their own business or assisting with the development of a company as well as providing the usual management accountancy services, the vast majority of accountants, in the same way that other professionals work, will only have covered accountancy tasks relevant to the job of a management accountant.
Bookkeepers Are Not Management Accountants (that’s why they get paid less)
Similarly, it is very unusual to find a bookkeeper who is able to not only complete the books for your company, but also to undertake management accountancy work. It is not often the case that bookkeepers are expected to also provide budgetary forecasts for companies, in the same way that it is very unusual for a management accountant to have been expected to complete bookkeeping tasks or maintain a purchase ledger etc.
Summary – Setting Up Staff to Fail
If you are looking for a complete all-rounder able to do just about everything, then it is likely you are setting them up to fail, and the recruitment is going to cost you more than you anticipate when that person leaves to go back into a role that’s more settled.
Professional Management Accountants Exist
Professional management accounts with the CIMA qualification will expect to be undertaking quality management accountancy work, and on the whole will not want to be completing bookkeeper tasks if they can help it for the majority of their time. In the same way a bookkeeper may feel completely out of their league if you expect them to provide you with budgetary forecasts of high accuracy to enable planning of multi-million pound investments.
So many companies try to scrimp and save on their finance departments that it is very common to see these roles advertised. It is not so common to see these roles filled, and it is more than likely that companies end up recruiting more than one person to cover the work.
Don’t make the mistake from the start with your recruitment, but try to think carefully about exactly what you want to get out of your senior management accountant, and whether it is more appropriate to recruit somebody less senior to undertake the more menial tasks. In the same way, have a think about whether you can recruit a senior management accountant to undertake the more complicated tasks that your bookkeeper is currently almost certainly struggling with.
There are so many different ways now that accountants work, including on a contract or zero hours basis, that it should be fairly easy to source senior management accountants to work on an ad hoc basis as required in the same way as it is to source bookkeepers for bookkeeping services.