Finance specialists in Poland: is demand outpacing supply?
By Justyna Chmielewska, executive manager, Hays Poland
Poland is highly regarded among investors for its access to a pool of highly qualified financial experts, positioning it as an attractive location for new investment projects focused on business services centres. However, due to the considerable demand for financial talent, recruitment in this field can be quite challenging. To successfully attract skilled finance professionals, it is essential to offer an appealing package and implement a well-executed recruitment process.
Poland stands as the sixth-largest economy in the EU and the largest country in Central and Eastern Europe. Over the past decade, it has consistently showcased strong economic growth, solidifying its position as a prominent leader in the region. One of the important industries of the Polish economy is the knowledge-based business services sector. Its impressive growth, the increasing number of new investments and the further development of existing centres has enabled Poland to emerge as a key global player in the business services sector, particularly in the EMEA region.
According to the most recent ABSL data, as of Q1 2022, there were 1,714 centres operating in the Polish business services sector. These centres accounted for over 70% of all centres in CEE and represented 1,068 organisations. The sector contributed to 6.2% of total employment in Poland, employing more than 400,000 people.
The unwavering investor interest in Poland
Investors are drawn to Poland not only because of favourable conditions and economic stability but also because of its advantageous strategic location in Europe. This central position is particularly important for organisations looking to establish global service centres. Additionally, Poland offers a wide range of business service locations within the country. While investors are still very interested in the largest Polish cities with 100+ business services centres such as Warsaw and Kraków, smaller cities with great potential, such as Łódź and Opole, are also gaining importance.
Poland’s key advantage as a location suitable for the establishment of new centres lies in its abundant supply of educated and qualified staff, particularly in the technology and finance fields. One significant aspect that appeals to investors is the language proficiency of the Polish talent network, with people fluent in languages such as English, German, Spanish, and French to name a few. The attractiveness of human capital stems from Poland’s well-developed education system, the tightening collaboration between universities and businesses, and the country’s appeal to foreign students.
The vast majority of business services centres in Poland focus on technology, particularly software development processes. However, centres offering finance and accounting services, as well as customer service, also occupy a significant position in the industry. Given the impressive scale of the business services sector in Poland, there is high demand for finance talent. Despite the country’s large population of financial specialists, demand often exceeds supply.
The in-demand profiles, skills and qualifications
The recruitment needs of employers in business services are diverse. Organisations are looking for professionals specialising in accounting, controlling, financial analysis, tax, audit, banking and financial services. There is high interest in people just entering the labour market, as well as experts and experienced managers.
As technology continues to rapidly evolve in the finance industry, employers’ expectations are shifting. They are looking for financial specialists who can operate increasingly advanced accounting software, analytical tools like Power BI and Tableau, as well as advanced database management software such as SQL and Python. The challenge lies in finding candidates who possess a diverse skill set, including subject-matter expertise, adaptability to new technologies, analytical proficiency, and fluency in English along with at least one additional foreign language.
It is also not uncommon to search for candidates with experience in implementing ERP systems or very good knowledge of at least one of them. Organisations in their recruitment processes most often ask for proficiency in SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Navision, Microsoft Dynamics, Exact and Symfonia are the most frequent recruitment processes delivered in Poland. Advanced knowledge of Excel, including VBA, is also valued.
Employers also take note of additional certificates – internationally-recognised ACCA or CIMA as well as Poland-specific qualifications of a Certified Auditor or Tax Advisor – considering them as valuable additional assets. Completing postgraduate studies or additional courses related to finance, such as those offered by the Accountants Association in Poland, is also highly regarded.
The obstacles to building an effective finance team
The finance industry is experiencing a high demand for specialists in Poland. The unemployment rate hovering around 5% and a steady influx of new investments into the country, makes finding suitable employees a challenge. Despite the somehow negative shift in economic sentiment and a slight decline in recruitment activity in Poland, the finance and accounting is still best described as a candidate-driven market.
Employers continue to compete for employees, often having to cater to specific expectations and create customised job offers. However, wage growth in the industry has slowed down compared to last year, which is mainly influenced by economic and geopolitical uncertainties. The awareness of the current economic situation grows among employers and professionals, resulting in a more common-sense approach to salaries.
Additionally, the transition from a fully remote working model, which until recently was quite common in the business services sector, to a hybrid or even a fully office-based one, presents its own challenges. This change not only motivates some employees to look for another job but also makes talent attraction more difficult for organisations. The challenge, therefore, is to manage this transition in such a way that it does not limit an organisation’s power to attract and retain professionals, who often have alternative career opportunities available in the labour market.
How to streamline the finance sourcing process
In many organisations, a significant challenge they face is a high turnover rate, which in the case of centres supporting financial processes can reach levels of up to 20%. To attract the best financial talent, it is crucial to ensure the job offer is tailored to the candidate’s expectations in terms of salary, benefits, job description, scope of responsibilities, career development path, flexibility of hours, and working model. However, employer branding can also play a key role. Candidates are attaching more importance to the values, strategy, and mission of organisations they want to work for. Therefore, its CSR activities and approach to diversity, equity and inclusion are increasingly significant factors.
In the context of recruitment projects, it is also worth paying attention to the quality and planning of the process itself, with particular attention to the timescales. The recruitment of finance experts needs to proceed efficiently, as top candidates are often engaged in multiple processes and quickly become unavailable as a result of accepting another offer. Employers are becoming more aware of this and are streamlining their recruitment processes accordingly. They now assess a candidate’s skills and make an offer over a shorter period – in the case of specialist roles after the first meeting, usually over the period of two weeks, and in managerial roles and after two stages of interviews.
Another growing trend we observe is the inclusion of salary information in job ads and transparent communication on remuneration right from the beginning of the recruitment process. Such practices are not common in the Polish labour market, so they not only stand out but also receive a highly positive response from candidates. Transparency not only promotes efficiency but also saves time in the candidate selection process. When job seekers have access to salary information upfront, they can make informed decisions about whether to apply for a position. This reduces the number of applicants who may not find the salary appealing, streamlining the recruitment process for both employers and candidates.
Employers are also adopting a more flexible approach to a candidates’ skills and experience, considering how they fit in the wider context of the organisation’s development strategy and how they can be nurtured. If there is a risk that a person might not be the right fit for the role, but has great potential, employers often take into account whether they will be an asset to other teams should they not be a success in the position they were hired for.
Tomorrow’s hiring outlook
Despite the challenges currently faced by employers in Poland, the market continues to offer attractive opportunities for acquiring financial talent. Poland boasts a mature and continually expanding business and financial services market, supported by a large talent network of qualified candidates, with a highly motivate work ethic and the operational awareness of advanced business processes. These factors make Poland an ideal location to successfully establish new service centres and competence hubs, or further develop existing ones.