Corporate Finance Staffing Survey

BY MATTHEW G. LAMOREAUX

Accounting is well suited to weather economic downturns. After all, bad economy or good economy, tax returns need to be prepared and audits completed. But what about CPAs in industry?

 

The JofA partnered with the AICPA/UNC Kenan-Flagler Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey Q2 2010 to learn more about how finance organizations have fared through the economic crisis, and to learn about the skills required for CPAs already working in industry or for those who aspire to do so. A total of 1,768 CPA executives in business and industry participated.

 

At a time when unemployment reached double digits in many parts of the country, most finance organizations held headcounts steady, survey results show. About 66% of the executives surveyed reported no change in headcount. Another 18% reported reducing headcount that did not impact CPAs in their organizations. About 9% said they had laid off CPAs.

 

At the same time, 5% of respondents reported increasing headcounts in their finance functions and another 3% said they had used temporary or contract labor. Put these together and the data suggest something very close to flat for finance professionals who are CPAs.

 

Sixty-two percent of survey respondents were CFOs, 29% were controllers, and 4% were CEOs or COOs. Sixty-four percent of respondents reported working for privately owned entities; 13% for public companies; 15% in government or education or for associations or nonprofits; and 6% for foreign-owned companies. The survey was conducted in April and May.

 

The JofA also asked financial executives to rank the top three skills important to them when hiring staff and managers for their finance organizations (see Exhibit 1 below).

 

Financial accounting and reporting. Although it may seem obvious to most CPAs, it has been suggested by some in recent years that with financial reporting comprising such a small part of a corporate finance organization’s overall workload, traditional financial reporting skills were important but perhaps becoming a commodity. Respondents, however, placed these traditional CPA skills at the top of their list for finance staff candidates and second only to management skills for management positions in finance.

 

Industry experience . Finance executives want to hire staff who already have experience in their specific industry, survey results showed. But respondents appeared to differentiate between external auditing experience in an industry—ranked seventh overall for both staff and managers—compared to industry experience, ranked second and fourth, respectively.

 

Communication . Communication skills stood out, ranking higher—third overall for both staff and managers—than finance staples such as financial analysis and budgeting and forecasting. Since oral and written communication are often not emphasized in accounting curricula or CPE, these results suggest CPAs in business and industry should consider pursuing specialized training.

 

Exhibit 1: Preferred Skills for Finance Job Candidates

 

Rank

When Hiring Staff

Rank

When Hiring Management

1

Financial accounting

1

Management experience

2

Other industry experience

2

Financial accounting

3

Communication skills

3

Communication skills

4

Financial analysis

4

Other industry experience

5

IT skills

5

Financial analysis

6

Budgeting/forecasting

6

Budgeting/forecasting

7

External audit experience in my industry

7

External audit experience in my industry

8

Internal control/internal audit

8

Internal control/internal audit

9

Management experience

9

IT skills

10

Other

10

Treasury

11

Treasury

11

Other

 

Source: AICPA/UNC Kenan-Flagler Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey Q2 2010, tinyurl.com/2a2hfyr.

By Matthew G. Lamoreaux ( mlamoreaux@aicpa.org ), a JofA senior editor.

 

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