Spotlight on skills
Research shows that more CFOs recognise the need to keep their skills up-to-date and are engaging in training to do so. According to the Greythorn Market insights and Salary Guide 2015-2016 Financial Services:
- 41 per cent have had training over the past 12 months.
- 38 per cent have had training over the past one to five years.
- 21 per cent of respondents don’t engage in training.
- Emerging skills
- 40 per cent said they recognised they needed better cloud computing skills.
- 40 per cent said they needed business development skills.
- 23 per cent said they needed digital marketing and analytics skills.
Compared to some other sectors, the CFO job market is generally strong, given the scarcity of people with genuinely senior skills in this area, and the demand for strong financial skill; no matter which part of the cycle the economy is in.
Andrew Morris, Director - New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand at recruitment firm Robert Half, says the market for CFOs has picked up over the past two years.
“There have been more opportunities in the previous two years than in the three years prior to that. Businesses are expanding and companies are looking for different types of CFOs; demand for senior roles is very strong,” says Morris.
He says there is demand for finance chiefs right around the country and across all industries. “The Sydney and Melbourne markets are particularly strong, which shows that the economy is going well.”
According to Morris, companies are looking for senior finance executives who can bring disparate departments across the business together, implement efficiencies, as well as generate revenue and profits.
“Businesses want talented, dynamic people who can work across all departments in a business,” he says.
Skills in demand
More generally, he says finance executives with strong experience in governance, risk and compliance are in hot demand.
“Businesses are also looking for people with anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing skills; as well as those with internal credit, financial planning and project management expertise,” says Morris.
“But what’s really important is soft skills like communication- that’s critical,” he advises.
Morris says businesses hiring for senior finance roles want people with proven relationship-building skills, who know how to build teams. He also says executives who can take complex financial information and make it easily understandable to businesses are in high demand. He says to prove this, executives need to be extremely articulate and be able to use real examples to demonstrate these attributes. “You need to show what you have done, it can’t be theoretical.”
One of the more important roles executives play is to develop the breadth of skills across the enterprise. Businesses are increasingly using out-of-the-box thinking to achieve this.
For instance, professional services firm PwC has recently announced it is launching a Code Lab, a computer programming training initiative. The business is encouraging staff to develop software coding skills, alongside their other areas of expertise.
But Morris says there is no emerging expectation for senior finance chiefs to have direct experience writing code.
“There’s an expectation that finance staff will have strong digital and social media skills; as well as knowledge of the main business software such as Excel. But code development skills are really only expected of IT staff,” he advises.
However, there is a growing expectation that senior finance leaders will have well developed data analytics abilities. “Businesses want leaders who can analyse information and express its significance clearly and simply, so processes can be built around it. They are looking for people with the smarts to understand data and how it can be leveraged to achieve change.”
Although demand for finance executives is increasing, salaries remain flat, according to the Greythorn Market insights and Salary Guide 2015-2016 Financial Services. The research surveyed 3,112 financial services professionals between June and July 2015.
The survey results echo Morris’s guidance, that people with compliance and risk skills are experiencing high demand for their experience. It found professionals with these skills are the only group to be able to attract above market rate salaries.
According to the survey, 41 per cent of respondents have not experienced any increase in salary over the past 12 months. Forty-six per cent of respondents indicated their salaries rose by between one and ten per cent in the previous year. Thirteen per cent of respondents said they had achieved an increase to their salary of between 11 per cent and 15 per cent across the same period.
A positive finding, in terms of job security and job fulfilment was that 73 per cent said they felt secure; while 65 per cent said were satisfied in their current role.
Job market themes
Overall, recruiters suggest all businesses are looking for similar skills sets, and the same commercial dynamics are impacting the talent acquisition and development process of most firms. In its annual recruitment trends report, Hays outlined a number of themes that have been present in the HR landscape for some time.
This includes the move to more flexible working practices. This trend is heightening as businesses seek to reduce headcount to control costs. Other trends include the switch to a more diverse workforce, not just focusing on gender but on other parameters as well; and, as identified above, business’s increasing use of data to drive decision making and performance.
But overall, says Morris, businesses are ultimately looking for CFOs and finance professional with which they can build a long-term business partnership.
‘They are looking for people who are culturally aware who can be trained for succession planning. Businesses want to retain senior staff for at least three to five years so the business-critical intellectual property they gain while working in the business stays inside it,” he says.