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Bleak House

During the past three years, many companies reduced head count or stopped hiring, and the strain in shorthanded finance departments is showing.
Julia Homer, CFO Magazine
November 1, 2004

It is not the best of times. For many of those working in finance, it may be the worst of times. During the past three years, many companies reduced head count or stopped hiring, and the strain in shorthanded finance departments is showing.

Now, companies must start complying with the most time-consuming of the Sarbanes-Oxley provisions — certification of internal controls. This means even more work and stress for financial managers and staffers, if not more pay.

With scant attention being paid to job satisfaction, in this issue we take a closer look at the bleak new workplace. We started by asking finance executives what they thought. We expected some grumbling; we did not expect an outpouring of frustration and anger. According to our survey (see "Hard Times"), more than 60 percent believe pressure at work is damaging their health. And more than 60 percent say their spouses want them to work less. But if they work less, who will pick up the slack? One-third of the companies that can't certify their internal controls on time say the problem is the lack of qualified people to do so.

But you can't have qualified people unless they are trained well, and we know that training has taken a backseat to compliance of late. To see where it stands today, contributing editor Alix Nyberg looked into the state of finance training at some of the companies best known for it (see "Great Expectations"). In conjunction with this report, staff writer Kate O'Sullivan created a diagram (see "Career Tracks"), mapping the careers of this generation's most prominent CFOs. The results offer some hope that better times lie ahead.




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