Competitive salaries Featured

7:00pm EDT November 24, 2006

A strong demand for accounting and finance professionals, coupled with the shortage of skilled accountants, has driven up base salaries, according to the recently released “2007 Salary Guide” from Robert Half International, which is a specialized consulting and staffing services firm that publishes its annual salary data based on an analysis of the thousands of job placements managed by the company’s U.S. offices.

Base salaries for accounting and finance professionals are projected to increase, on average, by 3.8 percent in 2007. Among those who will see the greatest gains in base pay include compliance professionals, internal auditors, financial analysts and public accountants.

“It’s useful for businesses to know if they are in the ballpark with hiring salaries so they can remain competitive,” says Tom May, branch manager for Accountemps in Cleveland, which is the temporary accounting staffing services arm of Robert Half International.

Smart Business spoke with May about the details of the findings of the salary guide and what businesses can do to attract and retain these professionals.

Is your salary guide available to the public?

Any company or individual can get a free copy of the ‘2007 Salary Guide’ from Robert Half International by visiting www.roberthalf.com or phoning (800) 474-4253.

What does the guide contain?

The data for the guide is gathered through our permanent and temporary placement in the U.S. throughout the year. The company has been putting this information into a yearly free guide since 1948, and it is invaluable when companies are looking to determine salary ranges in the accounting and financial services industry. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics references this guide when preparing its ‘Occupational Outlook Handbook.’

The latest salary guide highlights a trend that has been evolving for the past couple of years: the shortage of accounting personnel and the increased need for finance and accounting workers. The reasons for these trends are two-fold: business expansion and increased regulations, notably the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The prospects for accounting and finance professionals are bright because of these two factors, which have lifted base salaries considerably.

Which areas of expertise will see the most dramatic salary increases in 2007?

According to the guide, chief compliance officers can expect starting salaries to increase by 14.4 percent. Senior manager and director positions at public accounting firms can expect starting salary increases to climb to 7.6 percent. In the banking and financial services sector, business analysts can expect to see a 6.5 percent increase; private bankers will see an increase of 6.3 percent. Other dramatic increases include bookkeepers (6.7 percent increase), corporate finance analysts (7 percent increase) and risk managers (6.7 percent increase).

What are the top areas experiencing the most acute talent shortage?

There are three main areas: corporate compliance, internal auditing and public accounting (in the areas of auditing, taxes, risk management and corporate governance). Sectors in industry that we expect to see the biggest demand will be in manufacturing and commercial real estate, not only because of the increased need for regulation compliance, but also because of business expansion in these industries that are fueling the need for more accounting and financial personnel.

Are there specific skills that businesses are looking for the most?

Forensic accounting is highly sought-after today because of Sarbanes-Oxley.

Since there is a shortage, how can businesses position themselves to better attract and retain this talent?

Knowing competitive base salaries is all-important, particularly for a specific region of the country. It is also important for businesses to know how they stack up in relation to other companies, because the financial and accounting talent they are trying to attract are keenly aware that there is a shortage.

It is important not only to focus on base salaries, but the benefits and perks offered to the employee. Companies need to be smarter about what they offer potential — and current — employees. Businesses need to stand out from competition in what they offer and make the work environment interesting and fun, such as offering pot lucks and fun days, which will help retain permanent employees.

TOM MAY is the branch manager of Accountemps in Cleveland. Accountemps (www.accountemps.com) is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals, with more than 350 offices worldwide. Reach May at (440) 777-8367 or tom.may@rhi.com.