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December 26, 2001
Steady Demand for Accounting Execs
The
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se are the times that try an executive's soul. But the exec with an accounting or financial background may find them a little less trying, according to CareerJournal.com.

After all, someone has to pare costs, keep cash flow intact, and maintain a reassuring financial picture. Hence, requests for accounting and financial executive talent haven't softened as much as in other fields.

Talented financial managers who know how to cope with a difficult economy can demand a premium these days, search firms tell CareerJournal, which is operated by The Wall Street Journal.

Good cost-cutting skills are particularly in demand "where the country's been hit the hardest - the manufacturing belt in the Midwest and Northeast," says Terence Gallagher, president of New York-based search consultant Battalia Winston International.

Ideal candidates went through the tough economic times of 1989 to 1992 and understand how to approach a similar problem now, he says.

That doesn't mean everything's rosy for financial executives. Financial Executives International, a 15,000-member professional organization in Morristown, N.J., reports the number of resumes posted online with the group's career-services program jumped to 877 this month from 327 in July.

At the same time, the number of openings listed online with the group has dipped to around 30 from more than 100 last spring, says Diane Albergo, director of member career services.

Still, demand is "holding up rather well compared to what else is going on," says Bruce Raines, president and chief executive officer of Raines International Inc., a New York search firm.

Even in a recession, Raines said, companies "need to have proper reporting. And in many instances, there is a need for more efficiency," an area where a strong financial background helps.

As an example, he pointed to an assignment for a divisional controller for a Southwestern retail company with about $2 billion in sales. The position pays in the $200,000 range. Ideally, a candidate should have 10 to 15 years' experience, with about three to six at a top certified public accounting firm and the rest at a retailer or other company that handles a high volume of transactions.

Ted Martin, CEO of the Chicago search firm Martin Partners, sees firms are "switching the model, trading out their CFO or their controller" when they need "hard-core operational experience" to handle refinancing and financial reporting. Last year's experience in making deals isn't in demand, he adds.

Yet executives with accounting and financial backgrounds aren't leaping at just any job. "The smart ones are really interested in working for the right company," Raines said. "That's the single most important piece of the puzzle.
Second is what is the position and where does it lead. Money is third and least important."

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