Rutherford Cross – Interim Market Review H1 2021

Rutherford Cross’ dedicated interim team has enjoyed a busy first half to 2021 in the face of continued challenging market conditions. The increase in demand for interims in Q3 and Q4 last year carried through into Q1 and Q2 this year but found our interim team competing and losing talent to the extremely buoyant permanent marketplace.

The uncertainty caused by the IR35 changes in the private sector that came into force on the 6th of April this year had the (desired) effect of making a number of long-term Contractors fold their limited companies and take advantage of the higher than usual number of permanent opportunities available. There was an underlying assumption that the changes would significantly reduce the number of ‘outside IR35’ opportunities and so negating the benefits of working through a PSC limited company. Since the 6th of April this year, at Rutherford Cross we have found that there are more outside IR35 opportunities than were anticipated and so there continues to be a thriving marketplace for those wanting to work through their limited company.  Indeed, HMRC predicted that 25% of assignments would fall outside IR35.

We are already seeing enquiries from some of those former contractors who are considering returning as they miss the benefits of working as an interim which are often more than just financial such as independence, lifestyle and opportunities for learning.

The demand for Interim/Temporary support in the newly qualified to Financial Controller job range has been extremely high during Q1 and Q2 this year. There has been a slow pickup in demand for interim Senior Financial Controllers and Finance Directors during the first half of 2021 from what was a fairly low level of demand in the second half of last year.

The increase in the demands of the finance department has been apparent in all businesses, whether they have been doing well or not. The need to build up the finance team for the many companies who are experiencing high growth is understandable, but we are also seeing those companies that are in crisis mode investing in their finance department to help turnaround their fortunes. Either way this has led the increased demand for both interim and permanent finance professionals in H2 of 2020 and H1 of 2021.

The reasons for businesses requiring interim support during the first half of the year has been wide ranging with the following being the key drivers:

  • Immediate cover required during the permanent recruitment process
  • Systems Projects or backfilling secondments onto Systems Projects
  • To support rapid business growth or acquisition
  • Maternity/Paternity cover
  • Financial Planning/Modelling future scenarios
  • Support of specific projects
  • Requirements related to statutory reporting

The immediate impact of lockdown saw more improvement programmes and projects being put on hold. The improvement projects came back online in the second half of the last year and have continued into H1 this year. The permanent market has continued to be very strong in the first half of this year and the requirement to cover gaps until permanent hires land has contributed to the high demand for interims, although the speed at which permanent processes are being turned around through the ease of virtual interviewing has resulted in a narrowing of potential gaps when the incumbent leaves with this contributing to some companies deciding to make do without interim support.

In H1 Rutherford Cross has been supporting businesses across a range of sectors with the following sectors leading the demand (in order of number of assignments in H1):

  • Public Sector
  • FMCG
  • Financial Services (rising from 5th in H2 last year)
  • Manufacturing (rising from 7th in H2 last year)
  • Renewables/Energy (rising from 8th in H2 last year)
  • Charity/Social Enterprise
  • Tech
  • Construction
  • Pharma/Healthcare
  • Transport/Logistics
  • Engineering
  • Service/Retail/Hospitality
  • Media

In H1 this year demand for interims in the public sector has remained very high, largely supporting improvement projects. Rutherford Cross has been supplying public sector organisations which have previously tried the Procurement Scotland framework but have then decided to try a different approach. FMCG, Financial Services and Renewable Energy demand have remained strong to support the continued growth in these sectors. Encouragingly we have seen a pickup in demand from the Service/Retail/Hospitality sector as these markets begin to open up and show signs of recovery.

The availability of talented candidates in the Senior Finance interim market has continued to evolve in the first half of the year. Interestingly, and ironically, we are seeing more qualified Accountants who are in permanent roles looking to change the direction of their career and take up interim and contract roles. We are experiencing a much higher number of enquiries than usual from permanent employees who recognise the relative risk of leaving the security of a permanent role but are confident of backing themselves to survive and thrive in the interim market. We may be seeing fewer candidates relocating to Scotland from the EU post Brexit but we have seen an increase in high calibre relocators to Scotland from the rest of the world. The talent pool of available candidates though is diminishing as the permanent and interim market demand continues to exceed supply. We are seeing more clients willing to relax essential criteria and take on individuals who display potential and may also have a slightly longer learning curve than holding out for a more experienced interim who would hit the ground running typically.

Looking ahead to H2 for 2021 Rutherford Cross anticipates continued increase in demand for interims. We see the continued resurgence of limited company opportunities that sit outside IR35 with inside IR35 assignments being delivered largely by individuals operating on a PAYE Day Rate, Umbrella Day Rate or on a fixed term salaried basis.

Rutherford Cross looks forward to supporting our clients and candidates with this increase in demand in H2. If you would like any advice or information relating to the interim market please get in touch with either [email protected] or [email protected].