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Record number of accountants expecting £4 billion bonus pot in 2016

UK accountants anticipate sharing a £4 billion bonus pot in the 2015/16 bonus season, an increase of £2 billion annually, according to the latest research from specialist accountancy recruiter Marks Sattin

  • Average accountant anticipates 22% bonus in 2016 – equivalent of £14,758
  • Individual bonus increase expectation of £4,025 since 2014/15 amounts to 38% rise
  • 81% of accountants expect to receive a bonus, up from 55% just a year ago 

UK accountants anticipate sharing a £4 billion bonus pot in the 2015/16 bonus season, an increase of £2 billion annually, according to the latest research from specialist accountancy recruiter Marks Sattin.

A survey of accountancy professionals by the recruiter found the average bonus expected next year stands at 22% of basic salary – the equivalent of £14,758[i]. This is the highest bonus in monetary terms since 2010/11 and represents an increase of £4,025 on last year’s, the equivalent of a 38% rise.

Based on the number of accountants practicing in the UK, according to the latest figures from the Financial Reporting Council, this means the sector bonus pot next year will be a generous £4 billion if accountants’ hopes are fulfilled.

Marks Sattin also found 81% of accountants are expecting a bonus this season (Christmas 2015 to Q1 2016). This expectation is up significantly from last year when 55% of accountants were in receipt of an actual bonus.

Table 1: Average bonuses from 2010/11 to 2015/16 – Marks Sattin


Bonus amount

Percentage bonus

Industry bonus pot




£1.6 billion




£1.5 billion




£1.7 billion




£2 billion




£2 billion

2015/16 (expected)



£4 billion 

The anticipated growth in bonuses has been supported by general improvements in the UK’s economic outlook over the past 12 months. According to the IMF, the UK economy will grow by 2.5% in 20151, as the nation’s performance continues to gather pace following the end of the recession. 

Figure 1: Average accountancy bonuses 2010/11 to 2015/16 – Marks Sattin

From economic recovery to business growth

The rise in the number of accountants expecting a bonus is reflected in the general sense of optimism within the industry. Marks Sattin’s 2015 UK salary & market trend report revealed 84% of accountants are confident about the economic outlook. 

This optimism about the economic picture has translated into increased expectations for remuneration. Marks Sattin’s UK salary & market report reveals 71% of accountants expect to see their salaries increase over the next 12 months – and the results from this latest research illustrate that there is greater expectation for bonuses as well.

Dave Way, Managing Director at Marks Sattin, said: “The emphasis over the past year has moved from economic recovery to growing business. The concept of drafting in a ‘steady pair of hands’ to weather the storm is out and the focus now is on recruiting accountants who are not only technically brilliant but have the range of soft-skills required of a true business partner. Accountants are at the helm of driving growth, and their unique role in both private practice and industry makes them an important part of any business’ performance. The rise in the number expecting to receive a bonus this year clearly shows they are expecting a share of the spoils. 

“Creating an environment where outstanding performance is recognised and rewarded is the key to retaining A-players to form the strongest teams, which means there is a growing trend among HR departments to link pay to performance.”

Bonuses will be key to 2016’s retention and recruitment strategies

HR departments need to work hard to ensure they can retain their talent over the next 12 months, with Marks Sattin’s UK salary & market trend report revealing that just 25% of accountants are willing to rule out a job move – meaning those who are dissatisfied with their career trajectory may not stick around for long.

Dave Way adds: “Increased expectations for bonuses coupled with an openness to job moves creates both opportunities and threats for HR teams operating in the sector this year. Failure to reward talent accordingly could cause dissatisfaction, which could lead to a talent-exodus. At the same time, there is a clear opportunity to bring excellent talent on board.”