Accounting, Finance Staffs Happy to Stay Put

In a volatile economy, CFOs are enjoying a stable workforce.
Kathy HoffelderAugust 22, 2012

CFOs are sitting in the catbird seat in terms of the workforces they manage. While finance and accounting employees feel secure in their current jobs, they’re a good deal less cheerful about the prospects of career growth outside their current company, a new study finds.

A Mergis Group survey of 184 employed finance and accounting professionals in the United States found they were slightly more secure in their current positions in Q2 2012 compared with Q1. Seventy-four percent of the workers believed they would not lose their job in the next 12 months, just a tad higher than the 73% who believed that last quarter. Mergis, which is part of Randstad, an international placement specialist, surveyed the group online during April, May, and June as part of a broader questionnaire reaching nearly 3,800 adults.

Similarly, 60% of the finance and accounting workers expressed confidence in the future of their current employer, with only 15% saying they had no confidence in their employer. Almost an equal number of respondents (59%) also said they were not likely to switch jobs on their own in the next year.

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The relative security this group feels should be important news to CFOs in managing their staffs, says Steve McMahan, executive vice president of Randstad U.S. Professionals. “I don’t think as a CFO you can ever lose your vigilance in holding on to your best people,” he says. In this economy, he notes, mistakes can be made in underestimating the volatility of the workforce because there is some economic softening.

At the same time, the finance and accounting respondents were glum about future job prospects, however. Fewer finance and accounting workers in Q2 were confident in their ability to land a new job compared with those surveyed in Q1. More than 40% in Q2 were not sure they would be able to seek and find comparable employment, a 7% decrease over Q1.

Eileen Kamerick, CFO at investment bank Houlihan Lokey, agrees with the difficulty in finding jobs, noting there are a lot of good finance and accounting people out of work currently. “I think the employment world for everyone, including finance and accounting professionals, is characterized by uncertainty,” she says.

“Accounting and finance are areas which are less cyclical than a lot of others,” says McMahan. This group, he adds, tends to feel slightly more secure when looking at its company’s own financial data, though on a macro level it is still cautious about the economy.

The group’s take on the overall economy has worsened, as Mergis noted in its Finance and Accounting Employee Confidence Index, which slipped by more than 5 points to 52.6 in Q2 of 2012 from 57.8 in Q1.

The survey found that 38% of the respondents believed the economy is growing weaker, which marks an increase of 17% over last quarter. The rest of the respondents were equally split at 31% between believing the economy is getting stronger and staying the same.

Much like other broad confidence indicators, Mergis’s finance and accounting index tends to be a trailing indicator, according to McMahan. The index was at its highest level last quarter at 57.8 and reached its lowest level at 42.6 during Q4 of 2008. This compares with the company’s overall employee confidence index, which also reached a high mark last quarter at 53.8 and a low mark during Q4 of 2008 at 41.3.