Starting salaries on the rise Featured

7:00pm EDT December 31, 2006

Accounting and finance professionals are in strong demand, a trend that will continue into next year, according to the 2007 Salary Guide from Robert Half International, a specialized consulting and staffing services firm with six branches in the Houston area. The company publishes salary data annually based on an analysis of the thousands of job placements managed by its U.S. offices.

Higher demand means, of course, higher salaries. According to the guide, base salaries for finance and accounting professionals are expected to increase, on average, by 3.8 percent in 2007. Financial professionals who will see the greatest gains in base pay include compliance professionals, internal auditors, financial analysts and public accountants.

There are two forces driving the demand — and the salary levels — for these professionals, says Caroline McGlaun, vice president of Robert Half International’s Houston Region. “The first is the need for more of these professionals because of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act,” McGlaun says. The second reason is that business, in general, is good. “Businesses are expanding, and when they expand they have a need for more financial reporting.”

Smart Business spoke with McGlaun about hiring and compensation trends for accounting and finance employees and what this means for businesses looking to attract and retain these professionals.

How do 2007 salaries compare to 2006?

The prospects for accounting and finance professionals remain bright. Starting salaries are expected to increase an average of 3.8 percent in 2007; however, certain in-demand specialties can expect even more notable salary increases.

For example, 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 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 positions with significant increases include bookkeepers (6.7 percent increase), corporate finance analysts (7 percent increase) and risk managers (6.7 percent increase).

What do you expect in terms of job growth in 2007?

Business expansion and compliance initiatives will continue to fuel the hiring of highly skilled professionals. The shortage of candidates has intensified, and employers often must offer premium compensation to attract these individuals.

Houston industries that are growing most rapidly include energy (oil and gas), manufacturing and commercial real estate. Within those industries, the specialties that are in highest demand are cost accounting (particularly in manufacturing), payroll and staff accounting positions.

In stable growth (or slower growing) industries, demand is driven by the increased need for compliance, requiring the services of more internal auditors and financial analysts.

This, no doubt, poses challenges to businesses trying to attract and retain these professionals.

What are some strategies business owners can use that are effective in recruitment and retention?

Because of the shortage in finance and accounting professionals — and we expect the demand to outpace the supply through 2007 — businesses need to intensify their recruitment as well as their retention strategies. The most obvious strategy, of course, is to raise an employee’s base pay. It is important to evaluate and adjust the base pay for those currently on the job, as well as incoming employees, in order to remain competitive.

Employers need to know what the compensation level is in their area for a particular specialty and be prepared to match or exceed that base salary. Knowing how your salary levels compare to the competition is imperative, as most employers are keenly aware that there is a talent shortage and an intense competition to fill these positions.

In addition to raising base pay, employers are more commonly offering signing and performance bonuses and enhancing their benefits packages. Other perks include providing relocation assistance, additional vacation time and offering a flexible schedule.

How can business owners obtain the 2007 Salary Guide?

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

CAROLINE MCGLAUN is the Houston Region vice president of Robert Half International, the world's first and largest specialized consulting and staffing services firm (www.rhi.com). Reach McGlaun at (281) 681-2940 or caroline.mcglaun@rhi.com.