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Finance and Accounting Outsourcing Trends to Watch in 2024

Author

Eric Liebross

https://www.linkedin.com/in/eric-liebross-2b41242/
eric.liebross@auxis.com

Senior Managing Director of Business Transformation

In brief:

  • Demand for finance and accounting outsourcing remains on the rise as talent shortages, advancing technology, and persistent macroeconomic uncertainty force CFOs to rethink their operating models.
  • In a still red-hot labor market, U.S. F&A salary increases outpaced inflation by an average of 10% over the last four years – and an average of 48% in larger markets.
  • 92% of CFOs plan to increase investment in finance technology, but only 30% of technology projects succeed.
  • CFOs are increasingly turning to nearshore outsourcing in Latin America to solve their operational challenges without the headaches of Asian-based solutions.

Outsourcing has been part of many companies’ operating models for more than 20 years, but the latest finance and accounting outsourcing (FAO) trends show a surge in interest. Even businesses that never considered outsourcing before are now taking the plunge.

Consider these recent statistics: 

  • The finance and accounting outsourcing market is booming, with steady 11-13% growth expected to continue over the next three years (Everest Group).
  • Mature buyers are now open to leveraging third-party support across more complex, judgment-intensive processes, with 65% of successful organizations including outsourcers in their delivery models (Deloitte).
  • 51% of enterprises outsource finance functions (Deloitte). 

But what is driving accelerating demand? 

  • Cost pressures intensify focus on efficiency and performance. Amid persistent macroeconomic uncertainty, finance leaders are laser-focused on increasing operational efficiency to improve cash flow management and reduce operating costs.  Strategic cost reduction is a top priority for 59% of CFOs in 2024 – a significant jump from only two years ago, when 38% considered it a top agenda item (2023 PwC Pulse Survey).
  • The scarcity of talent (and rising labor costs) to support finance & accounting (F&A) initiatives. More than half of financial-related jobs remain unfilled — the highest of any industry, according to a 2023 U.S. Chamber of Commerce analysis. 
  • The broader availability of digital technologies. Leading transformation efforts is the top objective for 79% of CFOs in 2024, according to Gartner, and enterprises are turning to outsourcers to quickly access advancing capabilities like analytics, automation, and generative AI.
  • Offshore operational challenges. As service demand becomes more complex, CFOs are rethinking the time zone, language, and cultural mismatches of outsourcing processes to the other end of the world. 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the factors driving finance and accounting outsourcing trends in 2024. And let’s examine why nearshoring to Latin America has emerged as a leading strategy for CFOs – providing the top-tier talent, cost savings, digital capabilities, real-time collaboration, and cultural alignment to mitigate modern challenges, reinvent outdated operating models, and achieve operational excellence. 

The F&A talent war is still raging

Virtually every conversation with business executives about their main challenges starts with a common refrain: I can’t hire enough people to get the work done. And they are talking about all job functions and levels. We have all seen the “Help Wanted” signs when you walk into restaurants and retail stores, but the “Virtual Help Wanted” signs in corporate offices are just as visible. 

In the finance world, that’s translating to financial reporting issues – and alarming turnover as short-staffed teams burn out.

More than 300,000 U.S. accountants and auditors left their jobs within two years – a sharp 17% decline from the profession’s peak in 2019. But CFOs’ talent gaps yawn wider, with F&A unemployment levels historically low across the board.

In-demand roles like financial analysts and billing clerks report staggering unemployment rates of 0.2% and 0.5%, respectively. And there’s no sign of improvement, as 90% of employers report difficulty hiring skilled talent and more than 3 million U.S. workers continue to quit their jobs every month, states Robert Half’s Employment Trends in 2024 Report.

Planning is feeling the pinch, as finance executives worry about having sufficient, knowledgeable staff to execute strategies. Forty-three percent of finance managers are hiring for new positions in 2024, while 51% need to fill vacated roles, states Robert Half’s 2024 In-Demand Finance and Accounting Roles and Hiring Trends report.

 F&A labor costs outpace inflation

Despite mixed macroeconomic signals, labor costs continue to skyrocket in the red-hot F&A labor market. Comparing salaries from pre-pandemic 2019 to post-pandemic 2023, the changes are dramatic: outpacing inflation by an average of 10% across the board – and an average of 48% in larger markets.

Consider these eight core F&A roles where salaries increased almost 21% – from an average of $48,326 to $58,438, according to Robert Half salary survey data for 2019 and 2023.

A Chart Showing the Salary Changes from 2019 to 2023 in the eight core Finance & Accounting Roles

The numbers get starker when considering larger markets like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Dallas, where acquiring and retaining finance talent proves to be an even bigger challenge. According to Robert Half data for the same period, salaries for these positions increased by almost 31%, from an average of $54,248 to $70,807.

A Chart Showing the Salary Changes from 2019 to 2023 in the Large Markets F&A Core Roles

For certain roles, the competition is even more fierce. Financial analyst salaries increased almost 40%, and salaries for collections agents rose an astounding 61% as companies recognized the need to actively manage their outstanding cash positions with inflation on the rise.

While inflation is a factor in these salary increases as well, they are really about the war for talent.

Where are all the workers going?

A record 50.6 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in 2022 – the highest level in the history of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) Survey, which started in 2001.

But while the labor force participation rate (LFPR) plummeted during COVID, it returned to pre-pandemic levels in Q2-23. And a new concept entered our lexicon as “The Great Resignation” morphed into “The Great Reshuffle.”

Instead of resigning from work altogether, workers are leaving in search of something better. Most often, that means better paid, more flexible employment in the competitive job market or something more fulfilling or better suited to their life choices like career changes, contract work, or starting their own business.

Nearly 40% of workers said they were looking or planned to look for a new job in the first half of 2024, states Robert Half’s employment trends report.

Unfortunately, such trends have far-reaching implications for the finance and accounting industry, where some F&A roles are experiencing a “branding” problem among young adults. The number of people seeking accounting degrees recently dropped by the largest single-year percentage since 1995 as the profession’s reputation for long hours, mundane tasks, less meaningful work, and high academic hurdles has the CFOs of tomorrow opting for other careers.

Many Millennial/Gen Z workers also consider transactional F&A tasks beneath them, which impacts retention and the quality of work they provide.