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Finance Recruitment: “Spring Is Definitely in the Air,” Says Ben Davies

Green shoots of recovery are appearing in the finance executive job market after a long, hard winter

Green shoots of recovery are appearing in the finance executive job market after a long, hard winter. People who decided to play a game of ‘sit tight, watch and wait' are once again considering their next career move. Pay freezes are melting and company boards have recognised that job cuts and growth are incompatible. Well, I'm a recruitment consultant, so I would say that wouldn't I?

But before you discount this as just the deluded optimism of someone talking up the market, consider the evidence. Deloitte's latest quarterly Chief Financial Officer Survey, reports a rebound in optimism among the UK's largest companies in Q4 of 2010. It says CFO's ‘appetite for risk' has risen to levels higher than immediately prior to the recession, and that FTSE350 corporates (which comprise the majority of respondents) have shifted from defensive to expansionary strategies.

Another bellwether report is the CFO Outlook Survey, produced by CFO magazine and Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. This macro-level, global research has been conducted for 60 consecutive quarters, making it one of the world's largest and longest-running surveys of senior finance executives. The latest survey reports that the top internal concern of European CFOs is a ‘difficulty in attracting skilled employees'. It goes on to say that ‘many finance chiefs are acknowledging that they have finally reached the limit of what they can do with existing staff, as they once again point their companies toward growth.'

Now I'm not saying that CFOs in every sector and every region will recognise this as reality, but my own experience is that both surveys are pretty much on the mark. We're seeing increased activity in mid-to-senior-level finance management roles, and particularly strong demand in business services, telecommunications, pharmaceutical and energy sectors. In many of these sectors, good candidates are once again becoming scarce and finding enough to make up a long list is proving challenging. Good news if you're one of those who sat tight during the recession; less good if you need to strengthen your finance team or replace a key person.

For those in the latter situation, we're noticing an upswing in assignments for interim finance executives. Most commonly, these career interims are hopping between gap-filling roles as companies wait for permanent managers to arrive, or seek cover for maternity leave. But we're also seeing strong demand for non ‘business as usual' roles, especially for people with strong project management experience in areas such as shared services, finance integration (pre and post M&A activity), and IT-intensive projects such as those involving business intelligence and ERP - especially SAP.

We're also seeing companies backed by private equity firms once again being positioned for sale, so finance interims with good track records in this area can expect to remain busy. Given this, its not surprising that becoming an interim CFO is said to be one of the top 10 finance recruitment trends for 2011, according to CFO World website.

If 2010 was the year of cost reduction and rebuilding balance sheets, then 2011 is showing clear signs of being a period when companies begin capital spending once more. As ever, those companies with the right people, with the right skills in the right place and at the right time, will be the top performers.

-Ends -

Ben Davies is head of finance interim at Archer Mathieson, an executive search and interim management recruitment firm specialising in finance, human resources and supply chain and procurement functions.

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John Funnell has worked in online media for over ten years, after achieving his First Class BSC Hons Degree (BBC Sponsored), John won Bos 18-21 Princess Trust Entrepeneur of the year at 21, setting up Clean Living Records Ltd (including www.BeatReview.com) with great success having many acts that charted in Europe and Canada. After selling the business John looked for a new challenge and joined GDS International, having a successful career in sales and Delegate acquisition, he worked up to Event Director EMEA, forging contacts with some of the biggest technology names in the world, this lead to John having a lead role in the creation of MeettheBoss.com and MeettheBoss.tv – the worlds largest business IPTV channel. John then took over as Marketing and Communications Director and ran a multifaceted global Marketing team for GDS International in New York, Sydney, Kuala Lumper and the UK.. John joined Global in 2011 with the challenge of supporting its growth by developing a solid Marketing foundation through various Digital, PR and brand initiatives.