North East Scotland: a whole new dog

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Why professionals should be considering the North East for their next move

As a born and bred Aberdonian, the statement that this author is qualified to comment on life in the North East of Scotland is a safe one. Absent a passion for Arctic wind breakers and PPE for seagulls big enough to swallow your dog, there is a lot to be said for considering North East Scotland as a career destination as a professional. Perhaps 10 years ago, one could end this discussion with the statement with “everything there is to do, can be done in a day and the economy is a one trick “Oil & Gas” pony”. To do so now however would be doing the region, and your own career a disservice.

An economic renaissance

The historic dominance of the Oil & Gas industry in the North East of Scotland’s economy has rendered the region vulnerable to the cyclical nature of this particular commodity market. The decline in oil prices nearly 5 years ago brought into sharp relief the painful downside of this local market bias. A budding or seasoned professional may understandably take the view that a region with a somewhat more balanced micro-economy may offer a less stormy sea in which to develop their career.

This hypothetical individual may be missing a trick, however. The region has learned its lesson and is rallying to bolster itself against this vulnerability. Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce’s investment update has revealed investment in the region has risen by £1.7bn in the 12 months to October 2019. Furthermore £10.1 bn of public and private investment has been secured in the region on the road to 2030. Notable projects include:

  • Kincardine Offshore Wind Farm - £500m
  • Acorn CCS and hydrogen projects - £475m
  • Aberdeen South Harbour - £350m
  • Digital Connectivity - £77m
  • Peterhead Community Campus - £74m
  • Bio-Theraputic and Food Innovation Hubs - £58m

Opportunity North East (ONE) is another example of the economic antibodies now acting to fortify and diversify the local economy by investing in and encouraging the areas five key industries to grow; food, drink, agriculture and fishing, life sciences, tourism and digital while maximising the regions current Oil & Gas offering and assisting its transition from an “Oil & Gas” to global “Energy” hub for the future. The Wood Foundation has committed £62 million over a 10-year period to the ONE project and this is being matched by public sector funds.

This vision of economic renaissance has already yielded the establishment of the Oil & Gas Technology Centre, Innovation Centres for life sciences, food, drink and agriculture as well as One CodeBase, a technology and entrepreneurship incubator based in the centre of Aberdeen. North East Scotland’s Renaissance has begun, and this coming economic restructuring is sure to provide unique and exciting career opportunities for professionals astute enough to take advantage.

Access to global clients

The astute and canny professional would also note that there are few destinations in the UK outside London, where access to clients operating in the global markets is so freely abundant. SMEs are the lifeblood of the Scottish economy however those operating in the North East do have a propensity for more globally focussed operations, not to mention the large Upstream Operators with headquarters in Aberdeen. This offers more opportunity for exposure to global financial reporting, tax considerations and accountancy practices than are perhaps available elsewhere in the UK. Though Oil & Gas dominance in the region significantly contributes to this, the movement towards more of a global energy focus (not just Oil & Gas) will do much to stabilise this consideration. Furthermore, ever heard of Speyside Whisky or BrewDog?

Salary and benefits

In our experience at iMultiply, it is not uncommon for the same accountancy practice roles to offer 5-10% higher in Aberdeen than the rest of Scotland. For example, some newly qualified offerings have been breaking £40k p.a. Furthermore, the iMultiply accountancy practice survey 2019 has revealed, accountancy practice professionals in the region were 40% less likely to identify as “significantly underpaid”.

The local firms have had to compete on both salary and benefits with the Oil companies which seems to have pushed them to developing offerings that consistently outperform their counterparts elsewhere in the nation. The stability and security of the accountancy practice profession has ensured that these firms have proven to be far more robust than the Oil & Gas companies that have been plagued by redundancies over the past half-decade. If the potential for better salary, better benefits and a stable career isn’t worth considering, I don’t know what is.

Activities

To wind the clock back 10 years and explore options for something to do on a day off or a weekend, one may be forgiven for drawing the conclusion that the North East was pretty one dimensional, being Oil & Gas focused. It is an unfortunate observation that this assumption appears to prevail in the present day when it is just not true anymore!

What is worth considering is that The North East social scene has transformed, certainly over the past 5 years. It’s had to! As the suffocating Oil money fled, the social scene has had to tip its hat to the diverse and vibrant North East community and the result has been a blooming of varied and entertaining experiences.

In conclusion, as a professional that may be considering the start or continuation of your career, if you have not at least considered the North East of Scotland as a destination, you are doing yourself a disservice. There are some outdated assumptions held by many when life in the North East is discussed. These assumptions were historically justified but failing to challenge them and update these archaic perspectives is putting many the professional at risk of missing out on a fantastic experience, career and lifestyle.


Please get in touch for career advice or if you would like to discuss your next move confidentially - we are here to provide an independent perspective.

*Originally posted on the ICAS website