Investment banks in Australia thirsty for junior accountants

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Investment banks operating in Australia need financial controllers, management accountants, financial accountants, and people with Sarbanes-Oxley experience, and they are pulling out all the stops to get them.

This is the verdict of recruiters active in the sector. "To say we need accountants here is an understatement," says Elizabeth Warren, an associate director at Michael Page in Sydney, "We've had candidate shortages before in 2000, but this is definitely worse."

The lack of accountancy talent isn't restricted to investment banks. Tracey Nelson, of Melbourne-based recruiter Barber Bunton, says it's a country-wide phenomenon. "Australia's skilled candidate shortage is the worst it's been for 30 years," she says.

Talent shortages are exerting upwards pressure on pay. James Nicholson, a director at the Sydney branch of recruiter Robert Walters, says a financial accountant with six to ten years' experience working in an Australian bank can earn (AUS) $90,000 (37,860) to $130,000 (54,676) plus a bonus.

Pay remains substantially lower than in London, however, and Nicholson warns people hoping to pick up an investment banking accountancy position in Australia not to price themselves out of the market. "Often candidates simply translate salaries from London and expect the same in Australia," he says, "This is not realistic."

Candidates are also cautioned that demand is principally for low- level qualified accountants, with two to three years' experience: senior accountants will find it harder to slot themselves into a new role in Oz. "We need a lot of Indians, but not as many chiefs," explains Warren, "If a 20-something accountant comes back today, I'd be surprised if it takes them as long as a week to walk into a new position."

She says jobs are there for more senior staff, but the wait can be quite a bit longer.

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