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French Market Report 2010 - Market Commentary

High domestic demand ensured that France was one of the countries in Europe that was least affected by the recession. France was also one of the first countries out of recession in the second quarter of 2009. Unfortunately relatively high unemployment has become a feature of the economy. However, the recession, and this was a development common to other countries, did not result in internal audit departments making redundancies. This is perhaps not surprising given the potential difficulty many companies have experienced in recruiting appropriately qualified and experienced internal auditors. Internal audit departments have become more efficient, are far better understood and valued and are now comprehensively integrated into the fabric of the management and control of the companies they reside in.

The exception was the Big 4 and Ernst & Young in particular. Whilst their redundancies were primarily amongst their external audit staff, the number of auditors accepting voluntary redundancy had a significant impact on the internal audit recruitment market in the Ile de France. It substantially increased the number of auditors in the recruitment market.

The main feature of the French recruitment market in 2009 was the almost universal collapse in demand. Few companies expanded their internal audit departments and many who lost internal auditors through natural wastage declined to recruit replacements externally. Where necessary they filled their vacancies with staff from other departments within the company who would have otherwise been made redundant.

It was apparent, and this was not the case in other European countries, that French internal auditors were willing to change employers during the recession. As a consequence, for those internal audit departments that actively looked to fill vacancies during the recession, there was no shortage of potential recruits.

Demand started to recover in the final months of 2009 and by the first quarter of 2010 there was evidence of a more broadly based recovery. In reality, almost regardless of economic conditions, there is only so long that internal audit departments can go without recruiting externally. The problem for smaller internal audit departments is that recessions may slow but they do not stop the natural attrition of staff. For example, if an internal audit department is relatively small, losing one internal auditor represents a loss of capacity that is not sustainable if the audit plan is to be met. In many instances recessions increase the workload of internal audit departments as they become more involved in risk and cost reduction programmes. A further point is that due to the specialist nature of internal audit, many companies do not always have the ability to recruit internally.

Recruitment trends that were apparent during 2009 were the continued demand from industry and commerce for internal auditors with SAP experience. Whilst internal auditors with this experience were comparatively rare up to 2008, they have recently become more readily available in the recruitment market.

Internal auditors with fraud investigation experience and the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) qualification have been in demand in both the financial services industry and commerce. This is most likely linked to the rise in the frequency of fraud that is often associated with tougher business conditions.

Demand for IT auditors with both infrastructure and applications experience continued to be a feature of the recruitment market. In comparison to the last recession when many IT auditors were made redundant, IT audit has proven to be a more secure place to work. Close to 30% of vacancies in internal auditing during 2009 were for IT auditors, a far higher percentage than in recent years. Demand from the financial services sector, led by the insurance industry, was particularly high.

During the first quarter of 2010 it became apparent that whilst in absolute terms demand remained depressed a recovery was underway.

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