The talent drain: Good news for skilled workers, bad news for CFOs

BY NEIL AMATO

CFOs are still concerned about talent, and that’s potentially good news for workers with specialized skills.

Nearly 60% of U.S. CFOs consider it a challenge to find skilled financial professionals, according to a Robert Half International survey. Fifty-four percent said it was “somewhat challenging” to find skilled workers in finance, and 5% said it was “very challenging.” That’s up slightly from September 2012, when 58% of CFOs said it was challenging to find skilled financial professionals.

“It’s a tale of two job markets,” said Paul McDonald, Robert Half senior executive director. “The broad-based media would lead you to believe that, with [U.S.] unemployment above 7%, there’s a plethora of people to pick from. But when you dig in, there’s a war for talent in the finance arena.”

Workers with specific expertise remain in demand, and because there are fewer of them, they often command higher starting salaries. For instance, Robert Half says that demand remains strong for the internal audit role. Last month, data from the Institute of Internal Auditors showed that internal auditors’ salaries are on the rise.

College graduates with a finance or IT background can expect to find jobs quickly and those with even limited experience are able to command higher salaries, McDonald said. Companies are responding with more perks, such as flexible work arrangements or tuition reimbursement for continuing education.

“They’re getting on the bandwagon to pay more competitively, and they’re offering enhanced packages outside of compensation,” he said.

Finance departments are focusing on efficiency as they search for talent. “CFOs are looking to improve the time it takes to close the books,” McDonald said. “Everyone’s seeking productivity gains, and they need the skilled individuals to help them with that.”

Companies are looking in particular for analysts who are CPAs and can turn financial data into business recommendations.

Businesses also are seeking finance pros with technical expertise as well as communication and problem-solving skills.

The Robert Half survey used the responses of more than 1,400 CFOs in November 2012.

Neil Amato ( namato@aicpa.org ) is a JofA senior editor.

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