It’s not just the economy, as Bill Clinton’s 1992 successful slogan campaign claimed, but the right talent pool to keep it on the right path.
A survey of UK financial directors has revealed that the skill shortage in the job market is what gives them sleepless nights, more than China’s sudden slowdown or the threat of a ‘Brexit’.
The survey was conducted over the summer by the journal of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) and DLA Piper, a global law firm, among 108 financial directors all of them ICAS members.
More than half of respondents, 58%, believed the UK economy will achieve just modest growth (between 1% to 2.5%) in the next year. That’s the same percentage of financial directors who last year expected strong or modest growth in the following 12 months.
For ICAS CEO Anton Colella the talent gap is the elephant in the boardroom: recruiting and retaining people with the right skills is what primarily hinders economic growth.
According to the majority of surveyed financial directors, boosting economic growth is a task for the private sector, being employee’s motivation and training investment measures that would be more effective than government intervention in the economy.
Yet, as Colella pointed out, colleges and universities are adapting "at a glacial pace" to address a challenge that has a global scale.
The talent gap is an issue that is constantly acknowledged by the heads of professional accountancy bodies in the UK and beyond.
Pat Costello, chairman of Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW), told The Accountant that attracting the most talented people to the chartered accountancy profession remains a priority of the international grouping he leads.
CAW has member bodies in the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
"It’s also competitive with other professions, some have called it a war on talent," Costello said.
The challenge in not exclusive to the chartered accountancy profession, management accountants have observed an increasing pressure within the CFO team, which has been tasked with more responsibilities in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
In the US, the Institute of Management Accountants CEO Jeff Thomson told The Accountant: "The talent gap is more severe on the management accounting side of the profession, as the CFO evolves from just doing the numbers to a strategic and enterprise-wide role".