Fund managers ‘may be hit by accountant shortage’

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SCOTLAND’S fund management sector could be held back by a lack of accountants trained to handle specialist work, according to a senior industry figure.

John Docherty, a divisional director at recruitment firm Core-Asset Consulting, warned that a “dearth” of fund accountants could stifle growth.

He said an influx of international firms into Edinburgh and Glasgow – including BNP Paribas, Citi and State Street – had hoovered up bean counters.

Docherty said: “Put simply, demand is outstripping supply. But behind this trend lurks the dual problem of prominence and perception. Fund accounting falls between two stools – newly-qualified accountants often see it as falling short of their ambitions, while budding investment gurus are drawn to the bonuses and cache associated with fund management.”

Docherty called for companies to create apprenticeship schemes, increase the number of roles for graduates and “offer salaries that are competitive with other accountancy roles”.

He also suggested that schools, colleges and universities should tell students about career opportunities, while accountants needed to widen their skills base.

Mark Allison, executive director for education at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (Icas), said that a survey carried out in 2009 by the Scottish Investment Operations (SIO) and the investment industry’s largest employers found that there was a lack of specific qualifications for investment and fund accountants.

“In reaction to this, SIO, Icas and the CBI formed the investment accounting diploma to address this commonly-reported skills gap,” Allison said.

Owen Kelly, chief executive of trade body Scottish Financial Enterprise, added: “The number of international operations opening up in Scotland in recent years is testament to the skills on offer.

“However, we can never be complacent and the industry and education sector must continue to work together to match skills provision to the needs and priorities of Scotland’s financial services sector.”