Three years after the ‘Act on External Audit of Stock Companies (New External Audit Act)’ was enacted, the latest topic in the accounting industry is ‘manpower shortage’. The Big 4 (Samil, Samjeong, Hanyeong, Anjin) accounting firms selected nearly 1,200 new accountants this year, but the thirst for manpower in the industry does not seem to be quenched. This is because, in addition to the continuous need for audit personnel, the demand for management and tax advice is also increasing due to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and ESG (environmental, responsible and transparent management) trends. Naturally, the shortage of accountants in small and medium-sized accounting firms is also increasing.
According to the accounting industry on the 25th, major accounting firms have recently competed fiercely to recruit personnel. The Big 4 also hired new accountants on a large scale along with a salary increase. Samil Accounting Firm selected 385 new recruits, and Samjeong selected 390, the largest number for seven consecutive years. This is a 40% increase from last year, and is the largest number of people the two companies have hired so far. Hanyoung and Ahn Jindo also hired 220 and 170 new accountants, respectively.
The battle for manpower is attributable to the large increase in demand for accountants as the year-end audit season is imminent and the ‘periodic auditor designation system’ and ‘standard audit time system’ are combined with the introduction of the new external audit law. As the workload of accountants increased, the ransom price of accountants naturally increased. In particular, the active turnover of accountants in the financial sector, private equity funds (PEF), and venture capital (VC), due to the revitalization of the M&A market, is further strengthening this atmosphere. Overall, the demand for accountants has grown.
An accountant explained, “The industry’s food has increased,” and “Improved treatment also contributed to the booming accounting industry.” A major official in the investment banking (IB) industry also said, “In the M&A industry, there is a lot of demand for accountants with know-how on corporate value assessment and management advice.” highly rated
As a result, the impact of the manpower shortage tends to be greater for small and medium-sized accounting firms. An accountant working at a small and medium-sized accounting firm said, “The shortage of manpower at existing accounting firms is ongoing due to the introduction of the foreign exchange audit method and the entry of accountants into outside companies.” said.
For this reason, the accounting industry is paying close attention to the number of certified public accountants in 2022, which will be decided next month. This is because, in November of each year, the CPA qualification system review committee decides the number of candidates to be selected. The number of accountants selected increased from 850 in 2018 to 1,000 in 2019 and to 1,100 in 2020, but was frozen in 2021. The committee suggested that the number of selected personnel could be reduced after 2022, and the Korean Institute of Certified Public Accountants has also expressed its will to reduce and adjust the number. This is because it is determined that the demand for accountants itself may decrease in the future due to the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and information technology (IT) auditing techniques.
An official from the accounting industry said, “The reduction in the number of selected personnel is being discussed because the supply and demand imbalance can occur in the medium and long term due to the digitalization of accounting work.” It’s also a difficult situation to put on a drive,” he said. On the other hand, an official at a major accounting firm said, “Although digitalization of accounting work is being introduced, there is still a shortage of manpower for the tasks that professional accountants must see directly.” A frontline accountant also said, “As the number of accountants’ work has increased and the number of entry into other industries has increased, the current situation in the industry is that new inflows must be made.”
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