CFOs Dodging Train-wreck Economy

Despite the bleak job market, CFOs very much in demand; highly prized finance chiefs can ''name their price.''
Lisa YoonApril 8, 2003

In his Monday column, New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert addressed the brutal job market, quoting one out-of-work executive as calling the scene “the bleakest employment picture I’ve ever seen.” That view was echoed by several executive recruiters also cited in Herbert’s piece.

But as the rest of the executive workforce struggles to adjust to a world littered with pink-slips, it seems CFOs are in the pink. According a Saturday Times story on specialists who are thriving in the job market, finance chiefs are among those in demand — and companies are offering salaries to reflect that demand.

Todd E. Noah, a principal of RK Executive Search in Roseland, N.J., told the newspaper he gets CFO requests almost daily, especially from hedge funds. If anything, there may even be a shortage of finance executives, because the good ones are staying put. As Noah told the Times, “All they hear about is how poor the economy is, so they’re wary about making a change.”

And it’s not just financial services — all companies grappling with the faltering economy need a finance whiz to keep costs down. In the story, Charles G. Tharp, a human-resource management professor at Rutgers University, added that companies value finance expertise enough to pony up. “The CFO is quickly becoming the second-highest-paid person” in a company, behind the chief executive, he told the Times.

Indeed, Katherine E. Simmons, the president and chief operating officer of executive-search firm Netshare, told the Times that the right CFO “can almost name his price.” She noted that finance help is especially in demand at hospitals, which are scrambling to cut costs.

Still, it’s not the 1990’s anymore, and career experts urge candidates to be realistic about expecting lavish perks. Noah, at RK Executive Search, told the Times that he’s had to remind finance candidates that most job offers don’t come with sign-on bonuses or company cars anymore. “It used to be that CFOs would get all of these fringes,” he said. “In this economy, I tell people they should just be happy to receive a really nice paycheck.”

CFOs on the Move

Pres. Bush nominated Samuel T. Mok to be the CFO of the Department of Labor. Mok, who now runs his own consulting firm, was the Department of Treasury’s first CFO. Appointed by James Baker, Mok revamped the Treasury’s control programs. He also has military experience, having served as a strategic intelligence officer in the Army. His firm, Condor Consulting LLC, where he’s now a managing member, advises clients with business interests in East Asia. It also manages a federally funded program within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of an Asian Pacific American not-for-profit organization. Previous to owning his own consulting firm, Mok was CEO at GL Associates.

Last week, the White House announced that President Bush plans to nominate Teresa M. Ressel to be Assistant Secretary for Management of the Treasury. The President will also name Ressel acting CFO of the Department of the Treasury, permanent CFO upon confirmation. Ressel, now acting assistant secretary for management of the Treasury, previously served as deputy assistant secretary for strategy and finance, in the Treasury’s management office. Earlier in her career, she served as VP and chief compliance officer of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Inc. and for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc.