Are you paying too much? 2016 public practice salaries

by Lisa Armstrong, on 03/06/16 12:12

Too much, too little of just right? The 2016 Public Practice Salary & Charge Rate survey reveals a lift in salaries across the board.  But, firms are scrutinising what that money buys them.

What firms are saying

The accounting profession is split. Either firms are pushing hard on growth - fee growth, growing staff numbers, and to some extent, increasing what they are willing to pay to acquire staff - while many others are not moving at all. There is very little in between.

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It’s been a tough year for some but confidence has picked up with 45% expecting to increase staff numbers in 2016-17.

Firms report productivity vs labour cost as their biggest staff related concern. Accounting staff are expensive and the value of that expense is something that is closely watched. Generational issues appear to be coming into play. It’s not uncommon to find the scenario where firms think they are paying for a result but team members think they are paying for hours. As one practitioner put it, “Getting commitment beyond the current 9am to 5pm workforce”.

Yulius Santoso Director of Lucky You Found Me and our recruitment partner in the survey says, “Firms are putting a lot more emphasis on a candidate’s personality, communication skills, and client management skills ahead of experience and qualifications these days. The logic is pretty simple – a firm can invest in training to improve technical skills if the relevant employee has the right personality, the right team fit, and the right attitude".

‘Attracting talent’ is the second largest reported issue. Many firms struggle to get the right staff for the right job. For many this issue is exacerbated by their location and a lack of career progression opportunities. 

“The war for talent in the accounting industry is back. Compared to a few years ago, we are seeing a shortage of quality talent within the industry, not only in ‘mainstream’ services like Tax & Business Services and Audit, but also in the Tax Advisory and Corporate Finance space,” Yulius says.

53% of firm respondents do not intend to increase client charge rates (by 3% or more) in the next 12 months.

49% of firm respondents do not intend to increase salary levels (by 3% or more) in the next 12 months. Although the survey demonstrates that overall salary levels have increased beyond CPI.

What team members in accounting firms are saying

Gender inequality was raised for the first time - we don’t specifically ask about gender equality but a few female managers raised the issue in the ‘other comments’ box. These managers are in the more conservative Adelaide and Melbourne markets.

In general, work/ life balance (32%) remains the dominant concern of accounting team member respondents although this is heavily weighted towards managerial staff.

23% of individual respondents do not feel that they get the recognition they deserve (19% financial, 4% non-financial).

29% report career progression as an issue – a common problem in a profession where 90% of firms are 5 partners and below. Often it’s not a result of the individual’s capacity but simply that there is not a position available to them within the firm at that point in time.

Do you feel appreciated?

Bonus systems are becoming more common but their effectiveness is often questionable. Over 50% of firms with a bonus system in place said that it was not effective but either team members expected it or it makes the team feel better to have a rewards system in place.

Where firms do not recognise team members in any way – bonuses or rewards – survey respondents were derisive about the lack of recognition - “wouldn’t that be nice” style comments or “you might get a comment from a manager but that’s as far as it goes”, or “nope, nothing here.”  


Need help?

Remember, if you need help to find the right team member, our partners in this project and Knowledge Shop’s recruitment agent, Yulius and the team from Lucky You Found Me, can help. Call them on 02 9283 0777.


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Topics:Practice ManagementSalary Survey



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