Accountants are turning their backs on the profession's long hours culture in favour of a better quality of life, according to a new report.

Research by recruitment group Hudson found that 78 per cent of accountancy employees will choose an employer who offers the most balanced lifestyle.

It could potentially create a talent drought for the future.

More than 2,500 employees from organisations across the United Kingdom were surveyed on their attitudes to the current workplace and expectations about the world of work in the future, of which more than 800 were employed

in accountancy. Nearly 62 per cent of accountancy professionals are uninspired by their profession and are planning to pursue other career options, with 76 per cent looking for a job that fulfils their life ambitions.

Flexible working patterns are high on the list of priorities, with 39 per cent considering freelancing as a possible career path, and 47 per cent preferring a career break to a cash bonus.

Sixty eight per cent believe quality of life is more important than their careers, although 53 per cent admit that networking outside of work hours is a necessary evil in their jobs.

Fifty three per cent are not concerned about loyalty to their employers, with 70 per

cent of accountancy professionals expecting to change jobs and even career several times throughout their working lives.

In fact, 30 per cent of employees favour becoming "serial careerists", gaining experience from a number of different business sectors and working disciplines.

However, money is still the most important factor in job choice for 77 per cent of accountants.

But a company's ethical and moral values are rising in importance, with 71 per cent preferring to work for a principled employer who demonstrates strong ethical values.

Guy Hayward, managing director at Hudson, said: "It is no secret that those who work in accountancy have always had a long hours culture and, to a degree, that goes with the territory and the rewards.

"However, the fact that so many employees are dissatisfied is cause for concern.

"The emergence of this burnout mentality poses a real danger to employers and to the industry's talent pool, especially as quality of life is more important than a career for so many.

"If employers are to address the challenge of talent attraction and retention with a contracting pool of available accountants, they should make concerted efforts to recognise and address employees' concerns about not only lifestyle balance, but also flexible working."

* Birmingham- based accountants Meager Wood Locke are warning businesses and consumers in Birmingham to be aware of a predicted increase in cheque fraud following the launch of chip and pin technology.

For the first time in a number of years cheque fraud is reported to be rising as increased security on credit cards has forced criminals to turn their attention back to cheques as a method of defrauding businesses and the public.

Colin Meager at MWL said: "Chip and pin has been successful in the fight against card fraud.

"However this means criminals are being forced to move elsewhere and use less secure payment systems.

"It is more important than ever that companies ensure that all forms of payment are a secure as they can be."

Before chip and pin technology such as BACS made electronic payments secure, however there is less security surrounding cheque payments.

Mr Meager said: "As businesses deal with so many transactions and cheques they are usually the prime target for fraudsters.

"Its not only businesses who need to be careful, consumers should watch out as well, selling items on websites is now more popular than ever so if a buyer sends you a cheque you should ensure you also have all their details, in case any problems occur."