Press release: Where are all the newly qualified CA(SA)s?


SA has become a hunting ground for international audit firms says Network Recruitment's Nicoli Sauerman.

The CA(SA) talent pipeline is experiencing an explosive market shift, with international companies dipping their toes into the South African CA(SA) candidate pool.

Sure, this is great news for CA(SA)s looking to find golden opportunities – but where does it leave the South African talent pipeline? We’ll tell you: Under pressure.

A rock or a hard place for SA corporates and audit firms
It’s no secret that South Africa faces a significant talent and skills shortage. Various industry reports reveal an influx of top CA(SA)s leaving our workforce for different pastures. What’s more, many businesses underestimate this shift in the market and prioritize cost of a hire over the price of an empty seat.

Let’s take a brief look at the factors driving this market shift.

1. Global opportunities
South Africans have an excellent reputation when it comes to work ethic and competency, this coupled with mastery of the English language has translated into global companies headhunting them with international opportunities and hybrid or work-from-anywhere business models.

2. The ITC exam
According to The Citizen, there’s been an alarming 24% drop in candidates writing the ITC exam. This has two main causes:

  • Declining matric math results impacting the volume of candidates entering accounting streams in university.
  • Students are struggling to adapt to the combination of online and live learning.

3. Online learning
While e-learning increased efficiencies for some South African students, it had the opposite effect on others. Those facing challenges in their living environments or, with insufficient access to online resources and tech devices are struggling.

4. Increased salaries
The median salary for a newly qualified CA(SA) has increased by 20 percent to 25 percent, causing talent to decline job offers below their (new) desired income level. This leaves many South African businesses unable to afford new talent.

As a knock-on from these four factors, South African businesses experience:

  • Excessive staff turnover
  • Declining retention rates
  • Unaffordable skilled talent
  • Competition with international employers

The pursuit of greener grass
According to BusinessTech, SA’s latest Critical Skills List includes key finance and banking jobs lost to international employers. Many young professionals believe that international opportunities provide a platform to progress and achieve long-term goals.

Unfortunately for local businesses, South Africa’s socio-economic challenges and weak exchange rate only serve to make international work more attractive for young professionals. So… how do we keep our top performers?

It becomes critical to step back and evaluate the primary why’s, what’s, and how’s of talent acquisition and retention:

  • Why are top CA(SA)s leaving? Opportunities and financial benefits
  • What is the challenge? Finding top talent before they join international companies
  • How do we attract them? Invest in employer brand image, review traditional talent acquisition structures, and make a targeted effort to understand employee needs which requires humility from the employer.

There’s a silver lining
Although we don’t want to see our top CA(SA) talent leaving South Africa, there are benefits to them having international experience as they transfer their skills and perhaps, even mentor, the next generation when they return.

Our best advice for you

1. Remember face to face engagements
We can’t emphasise enough the importance of prioritising face to face interactions. Living behind a screen can make an employer feel “not real”, a job feel “not real”, relationships feel “not real”. The connection between employer and candidate/talent is best established in real time, in real life.

2. Invest in your employer brand image
You can’t attract and retain talent with basic job offers and benefits. Even worse is offering what seems like a golden opportunity and not delivering on that promise.

So don’t hint about an exciting career path and consistent development opportunities. Be explicit.

Top talent join organizations that operate with the same performance orientation as the talent they are searching for. If you want top talent, make sure you position your brand, and the job offer, as the best possible choice for them.

3. Plan and pipeline
Talent planning and pipelining are no longer nice-to-haves; it is imperative to understand the cost of talent versus the price of shorting it. When more people leave the company than enter it, a business is faced with new challenges, like being understaffed and overworked, losing staff due to burnout, and eventually losing clients.

However, with desired talent in the pipeline, you have an arsenal of potential employees ready and waiting for you to hire them.

This will position you as a competitive employer of choice, support your access to top talent when needed, and decrease your risk of being understaffed and unable to deliver on key business outcomes.

4. Tap into talent resource support
Talent pipelining and planning is a key pillar in any organisation, but you need to stay at the forefront of market changes – and not be caught in the tail end.

Assess the value of your internal structures as well as that of your external talent partnerships. The perspective on and demand from this key support has become more complex than just the traditional issue of cost control.

by Nicoli Sauerman, GM, Talent Management and Financial Staffing, Network Recruitment.