2023 | UK – a year in review

Author Michael Johnson
January 10, 2024

Brewer Morris recruit senior finance, tax and treasury professionals globally. In the UK, we have three key areas of focus:

  • FTSE listed
  • Private equity and owner managed businesses
  • US, Asian and European inbound businesses 

2023 certainly saw a slow down in regards to the volume of roles coming to market. However, with a less frenzied market, one without so many instances of multiple offers and aggressive buy backs, particularly from the Big 4, we have been able to offer greater consultative advice within processes.  Whilst there is still demand for top talent, there is a greater sense of equilibrium between hiring managers and their prospective employees. In Q4 of 2023 we also saw more businesses going to market to build their finance, tax and treasury teams than we have seen since before the start of the pandemic (we classify a team build as 3+ hires at the same firm at the same time).

Here we present analysis around our key focus areas and discuss which sectors were the most busy for new vacancies across 2023.

Sector analysis

Vacancies

Each year sees changes within sectors, and 2023 was no different. Some of the biggest shifts have been within real estate and pharmaceuticals where we saw a drop. And, leisure, hospitality and travel where we saw a significant increase.

FTSE listed

We typically see 12-16% attrition across finance positions in the FTSE each year (CFO and CFO -1). The last year has been no different and we have seen around 13% of roles at this level change hands.

The last four years has seen an increasing number of senior roles within finance teams offered to internal candidates. 2023 saw that trend shift, with an increased percentage of those hires made externally. This failure of succession planning initiatives, no doubt a consequence of the extreme activity of 2022, will need to be addressed in 2024.

Private equity and owner managed businesses

The private equity market has been materially quieter during a period of interest rate rises, and this has impacted the number of new finance team builds that we have encountered.

H1 saw a decline in deal flow (29% vs 2022), a consequence of price expectation mismatch between buyers and sellers as well as tougher financing conditions. Further, the majority of deals have been mid-market bolt-ons (55% of all deals in H1), which often resulted in redundancies for one of the parties involved. Clearly neither of these trends created increases in hiring activity.

Q3 saw a bounce back of sorts:

  • $101bn of deals announced with 93 at $100m+ (63% increase from Q1)
  • Deal type has broadened as well with a move away from non-leveraged deals as financing becomes more accessible

As a global group, we have been monitoring which locations are generating the most interest from corporates, and we have had a surge in enquiries for senior finance, tax and treasury talent in Spain and Portugal. Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon are, unsurprisingly, the main locations considered as businesses look to hire highly educated, mid cost talent.

As we start 2024, it has been widely publicised that private equity businesses are holding significant amounts of investor cash. This is estimated at about £2.59 trillion. It remains to be seen if this will allow for a return of a busy M&A market, but early signs are positive.

Equally encouraging is the propensity to hire senior finance, tax and treasury talent earlier in the funding cycle. Business owners are contacting us earlier in their journey, and we have been mandated on 17% more CFO searches for OMBs in 2023 vs. 2022.

Inbounds

Again, inbound hiring focused on ‘like for like’ replacements. Despite ongoing concerns around Brexit, we haven’t witnessed a huge volume of businesses either establishing or disbanding a UK regional hub. Hiring levels have remained flat, with a 2% decrease in roles at CFO and CFO – 1 levels across this client base vs 2022. It is very much business as usual on the hiring front, but we are intrigued to see what impact Pillar II has on the desirability of the UK as a regional HQ, vs. other European bases.

For more information on the senior finance recruitment market please contact a member of our team.