Investment banks want interim accountants to keep tabs on costs

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In spite of improved performance in the first half of this year, investment banks are still keeping a close eye on costs. The upside of this is that it's creating an increase in demand for accountants on contract basis.

Recruiters tell us that the first quarter of 2009 was a tough time for temporary accountants looking for work within investment banks. Projects were put on hold and those who managed to secure a contract were unwilling to risk a move. But change is now afoot.

Neil Owen, director of Robert Half Financial Services Group, says there's been a definite air of improved confidence in recent weeks and more accountants are on the look out for new opportunities.

"Projects are back online again, and we're seeing an uptick in demand around process improvement roles," he says. "They're either taking on temporary accountants for these projects or looking to use internal resources, which then in turn creates a need for interims to backfill their duties."

Oliver Harris, managing director of the contractor division of recruiters Robert Walters, says the last three months have seen an uptick in demand for temporary accountants.

"The roles we are currently seeing coming to market are for business management accountants, which is effectively looking at how banks can operate more efficiently," he says. "This involves a lot of commentaries, analysis and facing off to senior business units on how the company is performing."

Much like other temporary staff, accountants have seen pressure on their rates, with the majority of investment banks trimming them back by 10%. Sadly, the increased demand hasn't seen a reversal of this.

"At the end of last year, rates were at an all-time high following three years of solid demand coupled with a lack of talent," says Owen. "While banks aren't cutting rates further, I think it will be some time before we return to those peaks."

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