Roy Duncan

2nd October 2012

Accounts Managers – supporting small businesses

Accounts Managers are the part-qualified and qualified by experience hands-on accountants  who are often working in sole charge roles within a small business. Many are very capable and probably indispensable to the business owner. Other are not so capable and are frustrating the business owners.

Are you the owner or MD of an SME business who is exacerbated with your Accounts Manager?   Perhaps they are not competent or you have experienced difficulty trying to hire one? If you have been affected by these issues, I am not surprised; several of our clients reported similar problems before we assisted them.  If you are in that position, or know someone who is, then you may find this article useful.

Client Experiences

One client, a £3m turnover marketing company had taken on a fully qualified and experienced accountant provided by a High Street Recruiter.  However after 8 months the cracks began to appear.  There was a backlog of work, incomplete records, messed up accounting system, bank reconciliation not done for months, overpayments to suppliers as well as weak credit and financial control.  Thankfully we were able to provide a replacement who is now piecing everything together.

Another client, an international consultancy, with a turnover of c. £6m had hired a qualified accountant whose CV had no correlation to their abilities.  They had to call in the external accountants to sort out the mess which resulted in substantial costs whilst we found a replacement.

The longer term consequences of hiring the wrong person are far-reaching and can result in financial pressure for your company.  However, armed with market knowledge and a structure professional approach, you can get it right first time.


What should you expect from an Accounts Manager?

Accounts Managers are key players in SME businesses, who are hands-on looking after all the day-to-day financial processing and management.   This will include accounts receivable – invoicing and credit control, accounts payable – invoice posting, reconciliations and payments, bank reconciliation and cash management, VAT and PAYE returns, and all financial administration. They will usually carry out month-end procedures, prepare basic management accounts and liaise with the accountants at the year end.

Accounts Managers can be qualified by experience, part-qualified or even qualified AAT, ACCA or CIMA  You would expect them to have started as a junior and worked their way up whilst gaining broad bookkeeping and accounting experience.

They are self-starters who will report to the business owner or MD.  In the majority of cases, the external accountants will oversee their work thus ensuring any issues are identified before there is a problem.  Their background will certainly include sole-charge experience or as a number two to a Financial Controller or Finance Director.

Is an Accounts Manager the best solution for my business?

The Accounts Manager is the financial backbone of organisations with turnovers ranging from a few hundred thousand to £2m – £3m and more.  It really depends on the volume of transactions.  They may be the first financial appointment in a growing business, a new role where formerly the accounting was outsourced, or the role may take over from a part-time incumbent. In some cases they may have other more junior team members to support them.


Market Background

There appears to be a two-tier market.   On the one hand, many Accounts Managers have decided to remain in their job, preferring stability over salary increases and potential uncertainty creating a shortage of good candidates. For others there is no is no choice as they have become redundant usually through no fault of their own. This includes those who were earning £40,000 and more, however because of the recession, they have reduced their expectations and are often prepared to work for much less.

So what do you get for you money? You can expect to pay between £33,000 pa up to c. £40,000 pa plus benefits for a strong and experienced Accounts Manager, with a typical rate being £35,000.  However, as there is a shortage of high quality candidates, the best candidates are in strong position to negotiate good terms.

Of course, paying higher salaries will not guarantee that you get the best talent; however trying to fill the role on the cheap is unlikely to be successful in the long run.


Hiring an Accounts Manager

A first step is always to create a clear and detailed job description and person specification.  You should also follow the usual due diligence and checks; however pay particular attention to the following factors

  • Do make sure they are not a job-hopper.
  • Do test their bookkeeping and accountancy knowledge.
  • Do make sure they will not outgrow your business too soon and leave.
  • Do make sure the personality fits – you need to work with them every day!
  • Do make sure that they have sole-charge experience.
  • Do take up references.


How we can help

Hiring the wrong Accounts Manager can seriously damage your business and its finances.  Here at RG Duncan we understand the issues involved and solutions required so we can introduce someone who is well-matched to your business’s needs.  Each brief is overseen by a qualified accountant and we already have a selection of interviewed and assessed Accounts Managers on our database.

If you or someone that you know needs assistance in this area do get in touch.

Roy Duncan FCCA

RG Duncan Accountancy Recruitment, 33 St James’s Square, London SW1Y 4JS

T:  020 7930 4401  E:   W:

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