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Generation Y: Young accountants challenge employers for dynamic careers


19 Aug 2010

More than half of young finance professionals seek to use their finance training in broader business careers

The young finance professional of the 21st century has a confident and clear vision of their career progression, demands job security and is motivated by money, finds new research from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and Mercer, the human resource consultancy.

The research – called Generation Y: Realising the potential - shows a generation of young finance professionals seeking aspirational and dynamic career paths, both inside and outside traditional mainstream finance careers.

It presents a wake up call to employers of finance professionals to embrace the career aspirations of the youngest generation and offer dynamic career routes that capitalise on their finance skills, or risk losing future talent.

Over 3,200 individuals* responded to the research, from 122 countries around the world, making this one of the biggest ever studies of the youngest generation presently in the workforce. Leading global organisations were also interviewed to provide unique insights into managing this generation effectively, including RSM Tenon, Santander, UK Government Finance Profession, Pannell Kerr Forster, Hays, Aviva, KPMG, Unilever and the UK’s National Health Service.

While the survey reports that most Gen Y finance professionals suggest they are satisfied with their current role, concerns are expressed regarding the future, with half suggesting their organisation is not able to offer them sufficient career development opportunities.

Jamie Lyon, from ACCA, and co-author of the report, says:

“Generation Y finance professionals are smart operators. Our survey suggests they are hard working, but they want quick and transparent rewards.

In the future, we know many businesses will need a blend of employees, some staying in traditional finance careers, and others taking their finance skills into broader areas outside mainstream finance roles. The good news is that this is what Generation Y wants too – they rightly see the accountancy qualification as a great step to a broader-based business career….but for the employer, providing more diverse career paths in the timescales demanded is a big challenge. Managing the career expectations of Generation Y and being transparent about career development will be key to delivering on the career promise. If employers get this wrong, there’s a significant retention risk, particularly if global economic conditions start improving.”

Chris Johnson, UK Head of Human Capital at Mercer says: “In an ever-changing competitive environment, the one constant seems to be the war for talent, and one of the most critical talent pools is Generation Y. Companies are aware that to be considered “an employer of choice” by the most recent generation they have to find new ways to attract and retain talent.

“Generation Y employees around the globe are taking their careers into their own hands and focusing on their prospects for development to ensure their own career progression. This has implications for the way the finance profession builds its talent pipeline and how organisations should attract, develop and retain their young finance talent.

Other key findings from the research reveal the following:

    * Money matters: Remuneration is important to this age group and they seek out competitive packages. But they also want a good contractual package – they want money, work-life balance, and they want to work for an attractive brand that reflects their own values.

    * Experiential learning is crucial: Employers and Gen Y themselves see experiential learning as key to developing the skills required of today’s finance professional. Face to face learning still resonates with this generation and they are less reliant on e-learning than may have been previously thought. Organisations need to develop a wide range of learning opportunities to engage this generation successfully.

    * Be attractive, be different: Employers need to put career development at the heart of their proposition to make them attractive to Generation Y. Contrary to popular perception, the survey shows this is a generation who value job security but are prepared to leave if career promises are not fulfilled.

Chris Johnson adds: “Value creation is key for organisations in the future. Increasingly, human capital will be the primary source of competitive differentiation. Its value will be created by people, ideas and the brand of the organisation. Organisations will need to think creatively about how they can offer roles and greater career path variation to benefit from this talent and drive value.”

Jamie Lyon from ACCA concludes: “As our report shows, this is an über confident generation, who value security, but who are equally prepared to walk away if their career path is not being delivered. They are a demanding generation to manage, but ACCA and Mercer believe that if employers can offer them interesting careers, and get the career proposition right, this generation can offer a wealth of untapped talent that is waiting to be unleashed.”

- ends -

For further information, please contact:

Nick Cosgrove, ACCA Newsroom

+44 (0)20 7059 5989

+44 (0)7963 496144    Alistair Peck/Mags Andersen

Mercer Press Office

+44 (0)20 7178 3143/3153  

Notes to Editors

* ACCA members and students born in or after 1980, working in the a finance or accountancy related role for the past 12 months

About ACCA: ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

About Mercer: Mercer is a leading global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Mercer works with clients to solve their most complex benefit and human capital issues, designing and helping manage health, retirement and other benefits. It is a leader in benefit outsourcing. Mercer’s investment services include investment consulting and multi-manager investment management. Mercer’s 18,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York, Chicago and London stock exchanges. For more information, visit

The report can be downloaded from:

Cecile Bonino

Public Affairs and Media Relations Officer-EU ACCA

CBI business house

14 rue de la Science

BE-1040 Brussels

tel:+32 (0) 2 286 11 37

mob: +44 (0) 7809595008



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