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ACAs are becoming a much rarer breed. This does not mean they can get front office jobs at Nomura or elsewhere

Rare breed accountants

Back in June 2011, we noted that Nomura appeared to be seeking ACAs for various exciting jobs in equity research, M&A, ECM, DCM, leveraged finance and ‘risk solutions’ (credit, inflation and energy derivatives, FX ).

Not any more.

With today’s resignation (‘retirement’) of Jesse Bhattal, the ex-Lehman chief executive of its wholesale bank, Nomura’s international investment aspirations are looking even more tattered than they did before. A brief glance at Nomura’s careers site suggests it’s no longer seeking ACAs for exciting front office roles; right now Nomura mostly wants risk and compliance people.

And yet, ACAs need not lament too heavily. Beyond Nomura, the cachet of their qualification may be going up as the number of newly qualified ACAs goes down.

Recruitment firm CMC Consulting has been tracking the number of newly qualified ACAs via the number of accountants qualifying through the ICAEW or ICAS each year. It’s produced this graph demonstrating that the 2011 crop of newly qualified ACAs inLondon and the South East was 30% lower than in 2008 and lower than at any time since 2004:

Number of people passing ICAEW/ICAS qualifications as a % of the 2008 peak 

Newly qualified ACAs, 2008=100

CMC argues that this is already creating skills shortages in: audit, commercial roles, finance and product control, regulatory, risk and treasury. Longer term, it predicts the lack of ACAs will also create skills shortages in equity research and investment banking.

Unfortunately, this looks like wishful thinking. Other financial services recruiters say there’s absolutely no shortage of ACAs because the number of available ACA jobs has also plummeted. Nor, with the surfeit of experienced equity researchers on the street, are ACAs much wanted for front office roles any more in any case.

“I would say that the number of ACAs qualifying from the Big Four and top 10UKaccountancy firms is down around 40% on 2008,” says Ed Stevens at recruitment firm Eximius. “But jobs have declined by a similar amount.

“The opportunities in investment banks are also far more restricted,” says Stevens. “We used to be able to place the top 5-10% of ACAs into corporate finance or research roles, but those opportunities are now few and far between.”

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