Clear Brexit strategy may offer a recruitment edge

There has been no escaping Brexit. Since the referendum result, Brexit's uncertainty has spread across the business world, and our research has found that finance professionals are not confident that their companies are prepared for it. However, there are positives. Businesses simply need to ask, "How can this be turned to our advantage?"

According to Reed Accountancy & Finance research, only 3% of finance professionals believe that their company is completely prepared for Brexit, and a further 10% believe they are very prepared. Of the financial professionals surveyed, 29% believe that employers don't have any plan in place.

Whether these perceptions are right or wrong, they present an opportunity for employers when looking to get ahead of competitors in talent acquisition and retention. Businesses can provide security for employees and get a step ahead of the competition when they share plans for the future.

The interesting insight from our research isn't that Brexit is playing on the minds of finance professionals, but rather, it's that they want greater clarity that plans exist. An employer doesn't need to demonstrate whether it believes leaving the EU is a good or a bad idea; talented finance professionals just need to know there are plans in place.

Finance professionals want to see as little upheaval to deals and their current way of working as possible. Stability, solidity, and forward planning at the boardroom level in times of uncertainty are a massive lure to top talent, and companies that can demonstrate this can secure the best in the industry. For the top candidates working in finance, stability is good, but clarity about how to progress is better.

Sharing plans for leaving the EU could dramatically reduce some of that uncertainty for employees and consequently give teams more stability or help attract fresh talent by creating a perception of the company as forward thinking, capable, and agile. From a recruitment perspective, giving more clarity on plans for Brexit will give greater reassurances to employees and, consequently, positively impact talent retention and acquisition.

Any good company knows that its people are integral to its future. And the message from employees is clear — they want to know what the plans for the future of the company are, so they can make plans for their own futures.

The impact of Brexit on talent acquisition and retention is significant for the UK financial sector, with many of the employees fuelling its success originating from the EU. In fact, 2017 ONS data requested by the City of London Corporation showed that 18% of the Square Mile's workforce are European nationals. Given that an estimated 483,000 people are employed in this area alone, contributing £47 billion to the UK economy each year, it becomes clear why the relationship with the EU is so important to companies and their finance workers.

With such a large percentage of finance workers coming from the EU, there is a significant risk of a talent shortage for business. We have already seen the beginnings of it across the sector. To replace these workers with UK citizens will take time due to a shortage of current interest in accountancy roles from UK workers, so it will not be a quick fix. The alternatives for businesses are to wait to see the outcome of a deal with the EU or prepare for a visa application.

However, that isn't to say that employees aren't sympathetic.

In fact, part of our research found that while guidance is required from business, many employees recognise that no one really knows the details of Brexit. A third (33%) of the senior finance professionals asked said they feel less informed about Brexit than at the time of the referendum, and 5% admitted they do not know the repercussions of Brexit. These may be alarming statistics, but it shows how much can be gained by being a steady, reassuring hand on the rudder at this time.

As we approach Brexit, the major word that we have heard bandied around the news is "uncertainty". As any good business knows, where there is change there is opportunity, and whatever the outcome of leaving the EU, it will be one of the biggest changes to UK business in decades.

— Rob Russell is director at Reed Finance, an accounting and finance recruitment company based in the UK. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at