Finance departments on the hunt for new-hires

Canadian firms are stepping up efforts to hire finance and accounting professionals to address increasing business activity and mounting pressures to meet compliance requirements.

More than 19 per cent of chief financial officers (CFOs) of Canadian businesses plan to hire full time staff in these areas by the end of 2007, according to a survey commissioned by Robert Half International, a staffing and management resources firm.

By contrast, only five per cent of the respondents said they expect staff reductions. The figures represent a 14 per cent increase in hiring, up 10 points from third quarter projections, the survey said.

“Buoyed by a strong Canadian dollar and booming economy, we expect this trend to remain strong,” said Murray Bandura, recruiting manager for finance and marketing at Robert Half’s Calgary office.

More than 250 randomly selected CFOs from various industries across Canada were interviewed on their staffing needs for the study.

Forty-four per cent of respondents who anticipate hiring in the fourth quarter cited business growth as a primary driver, while 39 per cent said rising workloads was a leading factor.

But Bandura said the need to produce accurate reports demanded by industry watch bodies pushing for compliance with such initiatives as the U.S. Sarbanes- Oxley Act of 2002 and its Canadian counterpart Bill 198, also known as CSOX.

Sarbanes and CSOX were designed to protect investors and require firms to implement internal controls to ensure authenticity and accuracy of financial reporting and information disclosure; evaluate these controls; and certify their effectiveness in official documents filed before industry governing bodies.

Canadian firms have up to the end of 2007 to put their CSOX compliance plans into action.

However, a survey early this year found that up to 10 per cent of Canadian C-level executives think their firms are not up to the challenge.

The poll of 215 CIOs commissioned by Symantec Corp,  also indicated that 55 per cent of companies “were mostly but not completely compliant” and another 35 per cent were “partially compliant.”

While 67 per cent reported support for the CSOX, around 45 per cent regarded the legislation as unnecessary.

“It’s hard to put an exact figure on how compliance is affecting hiring, but the issue is definitely a significant influence,” he said.

The Robert Half manager said CFOs will be looking for finance and accounting employees who have technical aptitude or potential in dealing with compliance and reporting software and IT products as well as superior interpersonal skills.

He fears that as companies place greater emphasis on compliance other departments could suffer a brain drain.“As executives move to fill the finance reporting side, firms could experience a talent vacuum on the operational end.”

David King, executive vice-president for Robert Half foresees stiff competition for professionals with the right skill sets.

“As the competition for talent increases, companies need to be able to thoroughly evaluate candidates and extend employment offers quickly,” hesaid.

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