CFOS are hiring, but are they being hired?

According to a recent survey by Financial Executives International (FEI) and Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business, the optimism index up-ticked slightly in the 3rd quarter, leading 57% of surveyed CFOs to say they plan to hire additional employees in the next 6 months. That’s potentially great news for a lot of folks.

But what about CFOs? Will they be moving? Will there by any new opportunities for them?

I think that answer depends on two things.

First, a permanent extension, in total, of the existing tax structure. In the recent SmartBrief for CFOs poll, almost 39% of the respondents said this was the most important issue for the lame duck Congress (55% if you count the bifurcated extension). Businesses are rightly uncertain and what happens on this issue will play an important part in creating stability that will facilitate hiring at all levels.

Second, the still-evolving, massive health care legislation is another concern for companies that directly impacts costs and therefore, hiring. If the new Congress slows down this massive bill and eliminates some of the onerous provisions like the 1099 reporting requirement, it too, will mitigate some of the current uncertainty.

With those two caveats on the table, here are my thoughts.

After almost 18 months of hunkering down, CFOs began lifting their heads earlier this year. They were finally sensing some relief from riding out the recession and it made sense that they could now take a deep breath and explore what else might be available. It was quite active until about mid-September. Then, apparently, the pause button was hit again as the “tax increase issue” reared its ugly head.

If the existing tax structure is made permanent, and I believe it will be, that will be the linchpin that creates a more pro-business environment and enough stability for movement in the C-Suite to begin again. I still believe we’re very much still in the era of the “niched CFO.” Companies today are experiencing specific kinds of problems and, while it remains an employer’s market, they will look for that specific Finance Leader who can help them move through that problem / issue / challenge / situation; and then, may require a different set of skills from a new CFO. That makes it important for every Finance Executive to understand his unique marketable value proposition (MVP) and, who needs it and would be willing to pay to get it.

We may not see much happen between now and the end of the year, but watch for activity to ramp up in mid-January. That means if you’re anticipating making a move in the next 6-to-12 months, now is the time to develop your plan; create your marketing documents, message, and positioning; and begin raising your visibility among your target audience.

Why is visibility so important? I’m going to address this issue in my next post, but here’s a teaser from the article I’ll be referencing:

If social media is full of young adults and Generation Y, I feel that it could become much more difficult to reach the senior level candidates considering they might be less likely to use social media so extensively due to their age.

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4 thoughts on “CFOS are hiring, but are they being hired?”

  1. Cindy,

    Thanks for bringing up a very important question that many CFOs are raising – “How is the market for CFOs”?

    Yes, it has been difficult for the past 2 years. And yes, the market demand for CFOs is not hot (and not even warm). Yet.

    I do agree with you, the new year should see the demand begin to pick up.

    Your reasons for what will make the CFO Market move again are good reasons.

    From where I’m sitting, the CFO Search Market will pick up once companies start being strategic again. The downturn has been forcing companies to be thinking “how can we stay in business”. Many companies have not focused on growth, but on survival. In survival mode, companies don’t need a strategic CFO, they need an “accountant” that can report on the past and prepare financial statements on time.

    As companies start becoming strategic again – getting new financing, acquiring companies, going public, building new plants, investing in new systems – then companies are going to need strong CFOs to be a key member on the management team to make these things happen.

    But until companies start thinking and acting strategic again, a high priced CFO is just a cost, not a value add.

    Samuel Dergel
    Senior Partner & Practice Leader, CFO Search
    Twitter: @cfo2grow and @cfo2dergel

    • Great points, Samuel. Based on the interviews some of my clients are getting, there are some companies who are taking advantage of weaker competitors right now!


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