Top Financial Managers Face a Changing Job Market The Buzz


As companies become more cost-efficient, they're counting on their financial managers to keep them afloat. To succeed, financial managers are going to need specific skills in everything from accounting to information technology.

Maureen Neglia is a senior manager at a financial services company. She says financial institutions are the most stable in North America. And this, she says, is creating a lot of jobs at the top.

Neglia helps financial executives get to the top of their career. She says this is an exciting field -- especially because there are ample opportunities in it.

There also are opportunities to move ahead, she says. "A young person can come in and start in a teller role and can move up into a supervisor of human resources," she says.

"The great thing about this field is that when you come into an organization, you don't have to know exactly what you want to do when you grow up."

There's a reason why there is a demand for talented accountants and financial executives, says Wayne Mello. Mello is the executive director of a placement service for accounting and finance professionals.

It's because companies are paying more attention to cost-saving and strategic initiatives to keep their companies strong, he says.

"[C]ompanies are demanding that financial executives have all the requirements needed to be an effective financial accountant," he says. "They are closely assessing one's skills and requirements."

Financial executives must have specific skills, he says. They need to be fiscally conservative. And most importantly, they need to have integrity.

He points to the Enron scandal as an example. Enron was a leading energy broker. The company's financial misdealings led to an investigation over questionable business deals and faulty financial statements. This caused Enron's stock price to plummet.

"The alleged activities of their chief financial officer is exactly the kind of thing companies don't want to see or hear about," he says.

Mike Zelen is a company president and CFO (chief financial officer). "The Enron situation has put accounting and financial practices in the spotlight," he says.

"Companies with even a hint of weak disclosure or questionable financial practices are being penalized...heavily," he says. "Reputable financial executives with a track record of investor confidence are needed to comfort market scepticism."

Other skills needed to be an effective financial executive include data processing, information technology and Internet skills. That's according to Mello.

In the past, chief financial officers depended on information technology (IT) managers, he says. Now, they are required to know these skills themselves. "You just cannot be in the dark and depend on an IT person," he says. "Now you have to be computer-literate."

Often, financial executives will have a minor in IT, he says. And they are continually upgrading their skills.

Being an effective advisor is also important, he says. "You need to be a strategic business advisor to managers, instead of just slashing numbers," he says. "They have gone from having a record-keeping type of mentality to being a cost-saving financial right hand to top management."

Basically, the more versatile the individual, the better, he says. Technology is constantly changing and evolving. And the market is always reinventing itself.

"It's a very challenging market," says John Broderick. He is president of a company that helps financial employees find employment.

Julie Wise McClure is a spokesperson for the Association for Financial Professionals. She says the market for top financial executives is tough.

"There have been a significant number of layoffs across all areas of business in the past few years, as companies continue to tighten their budget belts and unlock new ways to increase earnings," she says. "And we don't expect this situation to change in the near term, as the economy continues its slow recovery."

But there will be a renewed need for top financial managers, she adds. "Working smarter and working leaner will be the mantra for this profession as we forge ahead," she says.

How can you get into the field? Financial managers usually have a university degree, an accounting designation or a college diploma in business administration, economics, commerce or a related field. Most recent entrants have an undergraduate university degree or a community college diploma.

They also need several years of experience in accounting, auditing, budgeting, financial planning and analysis. With experience, they may advance to senior management positions in financial management.

"Companies are always going to be cost-conscious," Mello says. It's not a recession-proof market. But he says finance will always be one of the most buoyant areas.

Links

Financial Executives International
A professional association for senior financial executives, representing 15,000 individuals

Financial Managers Society
Serves the technical and professional needs of today's financial institutions and affiliated organizations

CFO.com
Provides resources and articles on financial topics