The relaxed vibe of the tropical Caribbean or the wild beauty of Canada could be the perfect place to advance your career
This article was first published in the October 2019 International edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
Finance is known for being a mobile profession. That mobility is the product of the high demand for finance skills around the world, the transferability of finance qualifications, and the widespread adoption of IFRS Standards.
Finance professionals routinely appear on governments’ national desirable skills lists, offering exciting emigration opportunities that will further a career.
The skills of accountants are sought after in both high-growth and more mature markets, by organisations across the public and the private sector. According to a ranking of the world’s most in-demand professions by recruiter Michael Page, there is a shortage of accountants in 11 countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Ireland and Korea. Rachel Barnetson, business director at Hays Globalink, which supports jobseekers to find work in other markets, says that employers tend to look for technically competent finance professionals who can fill the critical roles that support and grow their organisation’s operations. Once they have performed well in these roles, finance professionals may then be able to move into business adviser and analyst positions.
It is not just employers who benefit from the global mobility of finance. Finance professionals themselves have plenty to gain from moving abroad – not least the opportunity to live and work in attractive destinations such as Canada and the Caribbean. ‘For many, the main attraction of working overseas is the chance to further skills and expertise while travelling and having new experiences,’ says Barnetson. ‘International experience is undoubtedly a key building block for developing a wide-ranging set of skills. By working in a new culture and environment, you broaden your horizons, enabling you to grow as a person and as a professional.’
It’s not hard to see the appeal of the Caribbean as a place to live and work. The region is famed for its tropical climate, long, sandy beaches and relaxed vibe. But how does it stack up in terms of career opportunities for accountants? The Caribbean islands that are also offshore financial centres – such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands – attract foreign professionals who want to pursue their careers while spending time away from their temperate home climates, according to Shelly-Ann Mohammed, head of ACCA Caribbean. ‘Offshore banking and shared service centres tend to provide the pathway for finance professionals from outside the Caribbean to gain employment here,’ she says.
Many accountants who transfer to the Caribbean are newly qualified or have up to two years’ post-qualification experience, according to Scott Lowes, managing director of Levitate Recruitment. Levitate places UK finance professionals in the Caribbean – mostly in audit and insolvency roles. ‘Audit is an in-demand service that needs to be done every year,’ he explains. ‘The Caribbean islands are small locations, so people often go there for a two-year contract and then move on.’
Lowes explains that the Big Four firms in the Caribbean typically take on large numbers of new auditors in the autumn, then train them up ahead of the January busy season. These auditors may do two busy seasons before returning to their home countries or moving on elsewhere. ‘Insolvency is an area that’s also picking up due to a lot of businesses in the Caribbean encountering financial difficulties,’ he adds.
Finance professionals who come from the Caribbean originally can also transfer their skills into new markets if they have the right qualifications and experience. ‘Many Caribbean finance professionals who are ACCA-qualified have been able to secure high-profile jobs in the private sector in the US and Canada,’ Mohammed says.
Renowned for its natural beauty and liberal outlook, Canada offers excellent opportunities for finance professionals in a wide range of industries – everything from oil and gas and manufacturing to financial services and the public sector. ‘The federal public service is the largest employer in Canada, so this sector has always been a good choice for finance professionals who immigrate,’ says Jillian Couse, head of ACCA Canada. ‘Many ACCA-qualified finance professionals have had success gaining employment in the sector. This is partly because of the type of jobs and the experience they hold, and partly because public sector employers want to attract diverse talent and promote inclusiveness.’
Alistair Houghton, business director of accounting and finance at Hays Canada, says employers tend to be more willing to bring in international experience when it is directly transferable to the local role. As a result, overseas candidates who already have experience of an industry in Canada are best placed to seize any opportunities that arise. Meanwhile, Couse emphasises that incoming finance professionals are most likely to thrive if they engage with building their networks in Canada – a process that needs to start prior to their arrival. Most ACCA members in Canada are immigrants, which creates a welcoming and supportive environment for newcomers.
Fundamentally, the shortage of finance skills in Canada bodes well for accountants who want to pursue their careers in the country. ‘All sectors are open to international talent, but particularly larger multinational companies because they tend to account using IFRS Standards,’ says Jon Mullin, vice president for accounting and finance recruitment for Robert Walters in Canada. He adds that Canadian-born accountants have good opportunities to move internationally since their qualifications are transferable and their passport is well regarded, while Canadian culture and education and its citizens’ work ethic are internationally admired.
Sally Percy, journalist
"For many, the main attraction of working overseas is the chance to further skills and expertise while travelling and having new experiences"