Oz banks ogle accountants

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Accountants, mythically dull, are becoming banks' target de jour. They are numerate, literate and highly educated, used to working in teams and focusing on the client. Perfect.

Or so it may seem if you're an accountant hoping to lay your hands on a juicy client-facing role in the front office. But the bad news is that investment banks aren't magically transforming accountants into derivatives traders: they're using them as accountants.

Recruiters say investment banks can't get enough of them. "We do roadshows in South Africa and are thinking about doing them in Canada and Ireland to find accountants we can place into banks," says Neil Dyball, manager, banking and finance with recruiter Robert Walters. "Chartered firms have struck back in the past year, increasing salaries for their people to try to stop the leaching drain over to investment banks, but the effect has just driven the external market up, and there's no end in sight at present."

Accountants are especially recruited for middle and back-office jobs, for anything from infrastructure markets to fund management to product controllers and group reporting, but boutique hedge funds are also swallowing them, Dyball says.

The good news is that if you're an accountant doing an accounting role in an investment bank, you'll still earn more than your peers in practice and industry. Louise Pope of recruiter Crimson Consulting, says most banking accountants are paid 20% more than their colleagues outside the industry.

This only appears to hold true in Sydney, however. Cameron Heaney, MD of Imagine Accounting and Finance Resourcing in Melbourne, says the smaller cities' banks don't have the critical mass to carry many accountancy functions: these are done in Sydney, so non-Sydney banking accountants, even if working for a major, just get their modest median. Which isn't quite so exciting after all.

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