Professional hiring in Scotland returns to pre-recessionary levels

Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide: Salaries to rise by 2.6% across all professional roles in finance and accounting, financial services, information technology and administration in Scotland.

  • Salaries rise by an average of 2.6% across all professional roles in finance and accounting, financial services, information technology and administration
  • Salaries not enough to retain top performers: candidates look for flexibility and extra perks and benefits
  • New roles and above average salaries reflect need to rebuild business growth rather than just cut costs
  • Renewed need for decision makers to be involved in recruitment process to speed it up and secure chosen candidates

Edinburgh, 23 October 2014 – The Scottish employment market continues to improve and demand for specialist occupations far outweighs supply, resulting in talent shortages in niche areas, according to the Robert Half Salary Guide.  Salaries for professional roles in finance and accounting, financial services, information technology and administration rose on average by 2.6% over the past 12 months, compared to the current rate of inflation of 1.2% (September 2014).

The Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide is the most comprehensive and authoritative resource on starting salaries and recruitment trends in finance and accounting, financial services, information technology and administration.  For the first time this year, Robert Half has included all four sectors in a single Salary Guide, which enables employers and employees to benchmark salaries for different roles on a national and regional basis.

Research for this year’s guide shows that the north-south divide is narrowing in terms of salaries and hiring.  While London still boasts the strongest economic performance, further hiring across the UK has created opportunities for businesses and professionals alike.  Many London-based businesses are expanding their operations outside the capital, bringing corporate services functions as well as commercial focus into the regions.

Accountancy and finance

Business partnering is now the most sought after role in the accountancy and finance sector, reflecting the need to build commercial growth rather than just focus on ‘bean counting’ or regulatory risk management.  Business partnering has also prompted a need to derive better insights from financial data in order to improve business process efficiency. 

However, finance professionals need to ‘have it all’ to secure the best roles: strong communication and analytical skills alongside sound technical competence around transitions to FRS 101/102/IFRS and UK GAAP.  Software knowledge is also important as confidence in the economy is rekindling stalled IT projects including investments in Oracle or SAP upgrades.  According to Scottish CFOs, 43% plan to increase finance team salaries for existing staff by an average of 9%, while 28% will increase bonuses.

Finance and accounting roles with highest and lowest growth between 2014 and 2015, based on increases for new, starting salaries

Top three 2014 Scotland 2015 Scotland % change
Financial business partner (SME) £41,800 - £51,700 £44,500 - £52,900 4.2
Commercial Finance Controller (large company) £69,400 - £82,900 £73,600 - £85,100 4.2
Commercial Finance Controller (SME) £66,400 - £77,500 £68,900 - £80,900 4.1
Bottom three 2014 Scotland 2015 Scotland % change
Cost accountant (SME) £37,400 - £42,000 £37,600 - £42,800 1.2
Tax specialist (large company) £40,300 - £60,500 £40,600 - £61,500 1.2
Tax specialist (SME) £35,700 - £55,400 £36,000 - £56,000 1.1


Financial services

Financial services hiring has gained strong momentum, with new roles being created along with greater market fluidity as employees start looking to move jobs.  Competition for skilled candidates to drive new initiatives is intensifying, with nearly all (97%) of financial services leaders citing challenges sourcing skilled professionals.  There is an ongoing tension between the adoption of a risk culture, where risk management is an endemic part of day to day operations and the need to grow: 81% of financial services leaders said that risk culture is impeding growth.

Cybersecurity is at the top of the agenda for financial services companies, with 39% of organisations hiring permanent staff to manage cybersecurity initiatives.  But the financial services sector as a whole is increasingly competing for the best candidates with the technology and start-up communities, which can offer a seemingly more exciting and challenging work experience.

Entry-level recruitment has returned to finance and accounting roles within the financial services sector, with preference given to candidates with strong degrees and internship/placement experience.

Financial services roles with highest and lowest growth between 2014 and 2015, based on increases for new, starting salaries.

Top three 2014 Edinburgh 2015 Edinburgh % change
Regulatory accounting manager £63,800 - £90,000 £66,800 - £96,000 5.9
Management accounting/financial planning and analysis manager £60,600 - £78,800 £79,750 - £83,400 5.8
Head of Credit Risk Management £76,000 - £148,800 £76,600 - £160,400 5.4
Bottom three 2014 Edinburgh 2015 Edinburgh % change
Manager, Collateral Management £54,100 - £77,000 £54,900 - £77,600 1.1
Product control accountant (4-7 years PQE) £51,700 - £78,200 £52,300 - £79,000 1.1
Technical accounting manager £66,200 - £79,600 £67,000 - £80,200 1.0

Note: Financial Services salaries are reflective for Edinburgh only, due to the industry concentration of the area


Technology hiring continues its upward climb, with employment within the industry forecast to grow at 2.19% a year1, nearly five times faster than the UK average.  The market is being driven by the end of years of under-investment in IT systems plus technology advancements that are driving huge business change and new ventures.  IT upgrades are the most common drivers for increased headcount, particularly of programme and project managers who are strong communicators and who can deliver large technology initiatives on time and within budget. 

There is also a significant growth in the number of risk consultancies and third party IT outsourcing services companies which is creating more demand for IT skills.  Contract work in the technology sector is another important trend, as companies aim to fill the skills gap to keep new initiatives on track.

IT roles with highest and lowest growth between 2014 and 2015 based on increases for new, starting salaries.

Top three 2014 Scotland 2015 Scotland % change
Chief information security officer £93,700 - £132,300 £96,000 - £142,900 5.7
Data architect £56,800 - £69,400 £57,600 - £75,500 5.5
Software developer £31,000 - £65,400 £30,800 - £70,800 5.4
Bottom three 2014 Scotland 2015 Scotland % change
Project management office analyst £16,500 - £36,200 £16,700 - £36,700 1.4
Web designer £37,900 - £51,700 £38,100 - £52,600 1.4
Senior applications/production support £42,300 - £58,500 £42,600 - £58,800 0.5


Administration and office support

There is a growing demand for entry-level people to join firms that are increasing headcount and want to grow skills from the bottom up.  In these cases companies are clearly looking for candidates with the right attitude and are who are driven/business oriented and don’t necessarily have huge amounts of experience.  Competition for these individuals is increasingly robust, so there is a strong need for clear hiring criteria and streamlined evaluation processes.  Skills and attributes in demand include Microsoft Office, Apple Mac OS (for creative industries) and social media savviness. Scottish HR directors say the hardest positions to fill are HR assistants (cited by 33%), logistics support (30%), office management (28%), project administrative support (20%) and executive/personal assistance (15%).

Administration and office support roles with highest and lowest growth between 2014 and 2015, based on increases for new, starting salaries.

Top three 2014 Scotland 2015 Scotland % change
Executive assistant £27,300 - £35,200 £28,000 - £37,100 4.3
Senior executive assistant £32,500 - £43,500 £32,500 - £46,500 3.9
Marketing assistant £17,200 - £25,100 £17,700 - £26,100 3.5
Bottom three 2014 Scotland 2015 Scotland % change
Customer help desk £17,200 - £19,900 £17,500 - £20,200 1.3
Medical secretary £17,500 - £23,100 £17,700 – £23,400 1.2
Paralegal £18,000 - £27,800 £18,200 - £28,000 1.1

Kris Flanagan, Associate Director, Scotland at Robert Half commented: “Hiring for professional occupations in Scotland has returned to where it was prior to the recession, with demand outweighing supply across numerous specialisms. Many candidates are now receiving multiple offers and counteroffers, so companies need to ensure the remuneration they offer is competitive in their industry and region.

“Remuneration is more than just salary. The most in-demand professionals are looking for a range of benefits, including flexible working and work-life balance. Businesses that delay the recruitment process are finding that they are losing their top candidates to competing offers.”

- ENDS -

Notes to editors

About the 2015 Salary Guide

Since 1950, Robert Half has produced Salary Guides to offer business owners, hiring managers and professionals information on prevailing starting salaries in their geographic areas and insight into the latest employment trends. Companies consult the annual guides to determine appropriate remuneration for accounting and finance, financial services, technology and administrative professionals at all levels. 

Information in the salary guides is based on the thousands of job searches, negotiations and placements managed each year by Robert Half's recruitment consultants, along with the company's ongoing surveys of executives. Continuing or ongoing salaries are not reported because many external factors -- such as seniority, work ethic, job performance and training -- impact the salaries of permanent professionals as work histories develop.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. We have once again been named to FORTUNE’s “World’s Most Admired Companies®” list and remains the top-ranked staffing firm (February 2020). Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal and administrative professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and jobseeker resources at and