Customs and Global Trade – a hot topic….by Emma Wade

With Brexit on the horizon the Customs market has been very interesting over the last 12-24 months from a recruitment perspective.  Customs is obviously a hot topic for most businesses and the consultancy firms have been very busy, resulting in teams growing significantly across the UK including partner appointments – it’s great that Customs has the high profile that it deserves.   Not that I am biased at all!  The consultants joining these firms have come from a diverse range of backgrounds – the UK is an attractive place to be from a customs perspective right now from both a technical and professional perspective.  Candidates have moved over to the UK from other consulting practices overseas, some have made the move from an in-house environment and there has been a steady stream of candidates leaving HMRC, attracted by the bright lights of the private sector.  On that note HMRC have recruited heavily themselves into the Customs area, a combination of transferring people internally from VAT over to Customs and Excise and recruiting graduates straight into teams such as the EU Exit Policy team.

On the in-house side the market has been steady, but not quite as hectic as you may expect.  There has been a reasonable amount of recruitment for Customs and Excise compliance specialists and grants from the government have helped customs agents and intermediaries to build capacity to manage Customs declarations.  Recruitment at the more senior level has been more piecemeal – there have been a few appointments but many businesses are waiting to see if the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal as this will have a significant impact (huge impact for some businesses) on what their Customs landscape will look like.

I have had many conversations with businesses, talking through potential hiring plans, all contingent on what happens with Brexit.  The effect on the Customs burden for many businesses is so dependent on Brexit that in my view, they are right to wait.  It will have a big impact on the level of seniority of candidate they need to recruit.  Some businesses have taken pre-emptive steps and have been using contractors to make sure that processes are in place and they are Brexit ready.

One thing I do know is that it’s a great time to be a Customs specialist in the UK, the work will be challenging, the landscape continually changing and your role will certainly be high profile in the business.


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