Hot tip for 2009: Integration accountants

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It hasn't happened yet, but logic suggests it will happen soon: at some point, banks that are merging will need an army of accountants to help integrate their businesses.

Current, recent and imminent mergers include RBS and ABN, Nomura and Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and BofA, and (probably) Lloyds and HBOS.

Recruiters say RBS and ABN have already had their fair share of integration expertise, but other banks are expected to start bringing people on board in 2009.

"We're expecting a lot more integration work next year," says Simon Lindrea, operational director in the finance division of recruiters Michael Page. "At the moment, most firms are still trying to finalise headcount."

Although some of the integration specialists are likely to be sourced on an interim basis from the Big Four, recruiters are predicting a surge in demand for contract accountants to work on integration-related projects.

"Typically, the programme will be led by an interim expert with a proven track record of delivering integration programmes of a similar scale," says Edward Nash-Steer, principal consultant on the contract team at recruiters Finance Professionals.

Pay is predicted to be generous. "Average rates for integration directors will be around 1,500 per day," says Nash-Steer. "Other specialist interim roles within the integration programmes could demand daily rates of from 400 to 800 per day."

Recruiters say any banking accountant could potentially reinvent him or herself as an integration professional. "You could be a senior product controller and come in to help integrate two product control systems," says one.