Invoices from suppliers coming in, monthly closing of accounts, ... These are things every finance team deals with. To handle these incoming invoices, there is a need for competent 'accounts payable accountants'. But what exactly are their duties and what salary can they expect?
Clarissa Pryce, managing consultant at staffing specialist Walters People, explains what makes this job so exciting, and how much you can earn as an accounts payable accountant.
What exactly does an accounts payable accountant do?
"As an accounts payable accountant, or AP accountant, you are responsible for processing and coding incoming invoices from suppliers. You take care of checking, recording and tracking all invoices, credit notes and expense reports. In addition, you can quickly and carefully resolve any potential problems with invoice checks. For example, you check whether the amount and VAT number are correctly stated. You will also help with the monthly closing of the accounts. In some organisations, accounts payable accountants are also given responsibility for processing the expenses of internal employees. "You will report on all these tasks to the accounts payable manager or the chief accountant, who is analytically strong, supervising the team and delegating tasks," Clarissa explains.
What training and skills are crucial for a good accounts payable accountant?
Clarissa: "A bachelor's degree in accounting is the main requirement to get started as an accounts payable accountant. It is also possible to enter from another educational track, but preferably with a specialisation in accounting and management. A good AP accountant also possesses some necessary skills. "Being punctual is a first requirement, because as in any job within accounting, there are matters that have to be dealt with before a certain deadline. In addition, it is essential that you know how to keep an overview and don't get lost in details. You need to have an organisational mind and be able to check and process invoices with a ‘critical eye’. It goes without saying that you have a good knowledge of current accounting software and strong analytical skills. Finally, you can communicate well, because you are the first point of contact for suppliers when it comes to invoicing."
Don't panic if you don't really have a flair for languages, by the way. "Even for accounting professionals who are a little less language-savvy, AP accountant is usually an accessible job. That's because you are mainly concerned with handling incoming invoices. If you work in the Brussels region where colleagues mainly speak French or Dutch, it is a plus to speak the language of your colleagues so that you can get along with them smoothly on a social level as well," says Clarissa.
How is the demand for accounts payable accountants in the Belgian market at the moment?
Every organisation needs an accounts payable accountant because invoices need to be checked and paid. Only in organisations where payments are outsourced is the function less of a necessity, but that is rather the exception. Over the past year, we have seen the demand for AP accountants increase by as much as 40 per cent compared to last year, and these are mostly permanent positions.
Clarissa: " Accountants, and therefore AP accountants, have been on the list of bottleneck professions for years. And that does not seem to be changing anytime soon. If you want to go for a position like this, you know you are in demand and can find a challenging job quickly."
What are the career opportunities for an accounts payable accountant?
"That largely depends on the personality and ambition of the accounts payable accountant himself. Some just prefer to stay AP accountant, simply because it's a cool job and because you really help the organisation move forward. But those who are more ambitious can also move on to a position within general accounting. There, in addition to processing incoming invoices, you will learn to code outgoing invoices, help with VAT returns and year-end closures. The next step could be the role of chief accountant. If you then want to take on a more analytical role, you could progress to business controller or financial analyst. There are plenty of opportunities for ambitious AP accountants," Clarissa knows.
Is hybrid working possible as an accounts payable accountant?
"It is definitely possible to work hybrid as an accounts payable accountant, but as in almost every job, you are expected to be in the office from time to time. In most large organisations with a good ERP system, everything is electronic and automated, so you don't have to be physically present daily to process invoicing. However, some small to medium-sized companies still have a lot of paper invoices that do require you to be in the office regularly. But whether you work for a small or large organisation, going to the office a few days a week always boosts your productivity, ensures you don't lose your 'feel' for the organisation and provides an opportunity to maintain your social contacts with colleagues."
How much does an accounts payable accountant earn?
It is the position in which very large variations in salary exist. Firstly, your salary depends on your work experience. On average, a junior AP accountant with 0 to 3 years' experience earns 2100 to 2500 euros gross per month, according to the recent Walters People Salary Survey. Professionals with 3 to 6 years of experience get between 2400 and 3050 euros in their account every month on average. For those with more than 6 years' experience, that amount can rise even further. But the pay also depends on the size of the organisation. "Some large organisations pay a bit more than a smaller company, so two AP accountants with the same number of years of experience can still notice a difference in pay. If you prefer a large, international structure, you may be able to try to take advantage from there and see your salary increase in the long run, even if you don't advance to a management position.
On top of that attractive remuneration, you can also expect some nice fringe benefits. Virtually all organisations offer meal vouchers to accounts payable accountants. A transport allowance and group and hospitalisation insurance are also often part of the salary package. In some organisations, a telephone and/or a net allowance are also added. Will you eventually grow into a position that requires professional travel? Then in some organisations you can also claim a company car with fuel card," Clarissa knows
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