Do I need a Service Charge Accountant and how would I find one?

By Alex Rowland, Consultant at Sellick Partnership and Liz Casey, Deputy Group Finance Director at Platform Housing Group

Service Charge Accountants (SCA) generally work within the property management industry, and I am often asked if they are needed, or whether a finance professional with a broader skillset would be suitable to do the job as skilled SCAs can be incredibly hard to find. There is currently a massive skills shortage in this area of finance, which is starting to put a strain on finance teams across the housing sector.

But why is there a lack of talent? Personally, I think that candidates often underestimate the technical skills required to be a SCA which puts them off. Candidates also often tell me they are worried about being pigeon holed by the company they’re working for, and as a result many decide not to take this route.

I recently spoke to Liz Casey, who is the Deputy Group Finance Director at Platform Housing Group to find out more about the importance of Service Charge Accountants, get her advice as to who needs them and find out what housing associations can do to attract them should the need arise.

Do all housing associations need a Service Charge Accountant?

This completely depends on the size of the business in question. Liz advised me that in smaller organisations, where accounting staff can get more general experience there may not be a need, however in mid-sized and larger businesses she would recommend investing in a specialist SCA. She did add however that this doesn’t mean that an SCA needs to be integrated or sit with the finance team. Many are taken on and are placed within their operational teams as direct support. This totally depends on the needs of the business.

What should we be looking for in a Service Charge Accountant?

The core competencies of any finance professional are always the same. These include an excellent attention to detail and the ability to communicate effectively being top of the checklist. Basic accountancy skills are also an absolute must. All of these allow finance professionals to be able to relay technical information to various stakeholders in a clear, concise way that can be understood at all levels of the business.

Liz also pointed out that SCAs need to be up-to-date with legislation that governs this area of finance. She explained that SCAs are covered by legislation which differs between fixed and variable charges, so to be successful they need to know about, be able to understand the difference and apply the various legislations to a variety of situations. Getting this wrong could come at a huge cost to the organisation, so this is a key area you should question candidates on prior to making a placement.

How to find the perfect Service Charge Accountant

There are different approaches to doing this, and again this is dependant on the needs of the business. When looking for specialist staff like this within her team Liz believes it is beneficial to cast a wide net to attract a larger pool of candidates who may have the skills needed to do the role. This is where specialist recruitment agencies can really help. We have access to thousands of active and passive candidates, and we are able to explain the role in more detail than a simple job description, often meaning we are able to find candidates that would not usually apply.

If you currently need a Service Charge Accountant, or an expert finance professional to join your team, get in touch, we would be delighted to help.