If you’re an Antipodean accountant wondering where to hang out, London might not be your first choice any more. Today’s Mercer Quality of Living survey puts it 38th, behind other more pleasant financial centres, like Zurich, Geneva, Frankfurt, Singapore, and Dublin for quality of life. In terms of personal safety, London ranks outside the top 50.
But even if you’re an Antipodean accountant who’s ambivalent about skiing at lunchtime or surviving the journey home, there’s another reason you might not come to London any more: it’s harder to get in.
“The British government has replaced the ‘Working Holiday Visa’ with the ‘Tier 5′ visa,” says Ed Stevens, managing director at recruitment firm Eximius Finance. “All [Antipodean] Chartered Accountants under 31 years of age can meet the requirements for “The Tier 5″, by having 2,500 in their personal bank account for a 3 month period as a minimum balance,” he adds. However: “There is a strict age limit on this Visa which is 31, and if you are over this age limit you will not be able to gain the “Tier 5” and will find it significantly harder to gain entrance into the UK.
The visa change is already making itself felt – particularly in the contract market for accountants, where “a majority” of candidates tend to come from Australia or New Zealand.
“We are certainly experiencing a severe shortage of newly qualified professionals in the financial services sector, which could be a consequence of the amended rules,” says Kay Senior, operations director, banking and financial Services, at recruitment firm Badenoch & Clark.
Stevens says the issue is being aggravated by negative press about the UK economy down in Sydney and Auckland. “This is impacting the number of CA’s who are actively looking to re-locate to London, because they are concerned about job opportunities on arrival,” he says.
For the moment, Antipodeans’ lack of interest in the UK isn’t causing terrible trouble for financial services recruiters. This is because there aren’t that many contract accounting jobs on offer in financial services right now.
Stevens says Antipodean recalcitrance is more of an issue in areas like commerce and industry, where there are still lots of jobs.
But if and when the financial services market picks up, the shortage could become a big problem: the flow of Antipodean accountants will be restricted to inexperienced 20-somethings from now on.