In the last three years, there has been a definite increase in the number of accounting roles being transferred offshore. The trend to ‘offshoring’ is not new and started over a decade ago. What has changed in recent years, however, is the level of the roles that are being taken offshore. In the beginning, it was data entry and customer service positions, but after testing the viability of offshoring with these types of roles, major corporates are going ‘up the line’. In terms of accounting, this means transactional teams such as accounts payable and accounts receivable have moved overseas. In recent times, this has moved to more senior levels for accounting professionals, with many 'shared service' centres ensuring the integrity of the general ledger, whilst reporting remains in Australia. Business analysis is next.
Over the years, the number of entry level positions for accounting graduates has not grown. The growth in the economy has shielded the effect of offshoring, and only now are we starting to understand how this will limit the opportunities for graduate accountants. I started my career in accounting with the chartered accounting firm Deloitte. It was a great start. I realised I was not the best accountant, so instead I now recruit accountants for people2people. Roles in chartered accounting firms still exist, but getting that transactional role with a large corporate, such as a bank, has disappeared.
You may have seen this article last year relating to ANZ Bank. I would go so far as to suggest that we probably don't need graduate accountants from overseas in quite the numbers we did before. Having said that, if we don't train our own accountants, we may need to import these skills in the future. An interesting question indeed.