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Hunting Unicorns: The Quest for Offshore Accountants with Aussie Experience

I chat with firms every day. From those who've had offshore teams for over a decade to those just embarking on their offshore journey. Many, especially the newcomers, seek candidates with Australian experience.  


Given the limited pool of accountants in the Philippines with such experience, we've often dubbed them "Unicorns" at Frontline. Imagine the ideal candidate: four years of Australian experience, a CPA, adept with SMSFs, individual, company, and trust tax returns, and knowledgeable about capital gains tax, fringe benefits tax, and more. 


As many of you might recall, Frontline pioneered the introduction of Filipino accountants to Australian firms over a decade ago. This domain has since exploded. Thanks to initiatives like ours, the number of accountants with Aussie experience has grown. They might not be Unicorns anymore, but with their numbers likely still only in the thousands, they're very hard to find. 


The Real Picture: Pros and Cons of Hiring Aussie-Experienced Staff 


If you chance upon someone with this experience, be prepared to compromise. It's improbable they'll tick all your boxes. Most will prefer remote work, especially those accustomed to the comfort of home over the past few years. And naturally, they'll expect a premium for their experience. 


The advantages? In theory, they'll integrate swiftly, with a shorter learning curve. If well-trained, they'll deliver top-notch work from the get-go, saving you both time and money. 


While having an accountant with Australian experience can be a windfall, it's essential to remember that their experience is molded by their previous employer's practices. They might be adept at how their former firm operated, but integrating them into your unique processes and methods will still require time and training.  


Perhaps they have three years of experience at their previous firm, but was it three years only completing one repetitive task and there’s no real depth to their experience? 


Every company has its nuances, and even the most experienced individual will need guidance to align with your standards and expectations. It's not just about their past experience as much as it is about how they adapt and grow with your firm. 


A Different Approach: The Value of Cultural Fit 


So, is there a more effective strategy? In our experience, the answer often lies in hiring for cultural fit and then training accordingly. With the right training and support, even someone without Australian experience can reach the desired proficiency in 6-12 months. The result? A relationship in which both the employee and employer will see tremendous growth and benefits long term. 


There are moments, of course, when experience isn't just a bonus—it's essential. Think about those times when you're on the hunt for a very specific skill set, or when you're trying to fill a role that's absolutely crucial to your operations.  


Maybe you've got a complex project on the horizon, or perhaps there's a gap in your team that only a seasoned pro can fill. In these scenarios, experience is your best friend. 


Here's the Takeaway 


Experience is undoubtedly valuable, but it's not the be-all and end-all. Recruiting a talented accountant with a few years’ experience that perhaps lacks Australian exposure, opens up a much wider talent pool, with more flexibility and at a lower cost to your firm. 

And the Aussie-experience gap can be quickly bridged with the right training and support to nurture your recruit.  At Frontline, we offer a comprehensive two-month training program that lays the foundation for a recruit's journey towards competency in Australian accounting.  


This program, available for those who opt for it, covers everything from taxes and payroll to the intricacies of SMSFs and fringe benefits tax. Our trainees dive deep into readings,tackling activities, ace tests, engage in live discussions, and get hands-on with Xero exercise, and by the end, your recruit is ready to get started on some real work and be productive! 


While this training comes at a cost, the investment can yield significant returns in terms of expertise and efficiency. So, while it's tempting to chase the allure of prior Australian experience, the real gold lies in finding someone who fits seamlessly into your firm's culture. With the right training and support, like what we offer at Frontline, you can mold any new hire into the accounting ace you need. 

  Thanks! Adrian Beales


Firms who invest in training early on, have a far easier time down the track as their offshore team become the trainers of future new recruits. Want a high-performing offshore team? Contact me here to discuss a successful program.





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