‘Unprecedented’ demand for Aussie accountants in the UK

After almost two years of closed borders, professional firm leaders are now bracing for an exodus of young talent wanting to work and holiday overseas for an extended period.

This will make the already tight local labour market for professionals even tighter in 2022, as those wanting to be part of this wave of departures are not likely to be swayed by higher pay to remain trapped in Australia.

Ms Brown, through Armadillo Connect, helps mainly accountants but also finance workers and lawyers, from Australia, New Zealand and Canada move to London to work. The service is free to the candidate with her firm having a commercial relationship with the recruitment firms for helping to find overseas-based professionals.

“If you can encourage any Australian who was thinking of relocating to the UK to get here before February, they will be ahead of their mates of the mass influx we’re expecting,” she said.

“What’s potentially going to happen is when all of these people decide that they want to arrive next year, there is going to be a backlog of processing. And, I mean, the current requirements for applying for [a UK youth working visa] is you can actually apply up to six months in advance of the date you want to arrive into the UK.”

KPMG law partner Hoda Nahlous and Sophie Evans. Rhett Wyman

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Hoda Nahlous, a Sydney-based KPMG Australia partner, has already helped one lawyer in her seven-strong team, Caroline Kim, move to KPMG Canada and is now trying to find a position within the firm’s international network for a second lawyer looking to move to Portugal next year.

KPMG Australia lawyer Caroline Kim is doing a secondment at KPMG Law Canada.  

Ms Nahlous said she didn’t hesitate to intervene directly and contact her counterpart in Canada when Ms Kim indicated she wanted to experience working overseas earlier in the year.

“I’d been directly working with the head of KPMG Law [in Canada], so I reached out to her, ran the idea past her. She was very keen, but basically prefaced it all with ‘COVID, can’t do much at the moment’,” Ms Nahlous said.

“So I kept the discussion alive … and then randomly I get this email in the middle of the night … ‘How about that secondment?’ I was like ‘Oh my god we were just talking about that!’ So as soon as Canada opened its borders, it happened straight away.”

Ms Kim, 28, is now living in Toronto, Canada, and will begin a three-year secondment with KPMG next week. The firm is paying Ms Kim, who must requalify to practice law in Canada, a salary commensurate with the Canadian market, which translates into a roughly 20 to 25 per cent increase on her pay in Australia.

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”I think one of the big things for most people, at least for myself, is a mix of experiencing a new city and a new culture, [and] also being open to travelling, to close-by destinations,” Ms Kim said.

Another lawyer on the team, Sophie Evans, also 28, has booked to move to Portugal, where her husband’s family lives, in March.

“We haven’t been able to travel and see each other like we normally would, so we planned like a long move to see them and work will hopefully just fit around that,” Ms Evans said.

“We’re in the very early stages for my move, but we’re in talks about how to link me up with one of the many KPMG law [practices] in Europe and somehow keep the connection to Australia. We’re in the very early stages, so we haven’t quite got there yet. The lack of a KPMG law [practice in] Portugal does [present] a bit of a hurdle.”

Her plan is to stay in Portugal for a year to 18 months and then return so the oldest of her two children can begin school in Australia.

“To be honest, [Australia’s travel restrictions] sort of pushed us to do it. Because we weren’t able to see family it interrupted our plans in some ways. And we’re definitely relieved the borders are open because it gives us the flexibility to come back and not have any issues about leaving,” she said.