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Demand for finance professionals ramps up in Q1

Stability is returning to the employment market for finance and accounting professionals causing increased demand for the first quarter of 2013, according to chief financial officers and finance directors surveyed for the Robert Half Financial Employment Report.

The report showed that 37 per cent of executives across the entire finance sector plan to increase their headcount in the first few months of the year, while a further 44 per cent intend to maintain current staff levels. Only five per cent expect to reduce staff numbers.

In the mining industry, 42 per cent of respondents cited plans to add new staff. By contrast, only 27 per cent of decision makers in the financial services sector plan to expand headcount. Financial services companies are also more likely to reduce positions compared with other industries (11 per cent, compared with 5 per cent across other industries).

The research found that skill shortages persist in finance and accounting as 86 per cent of executives find it challenging to source skilled finance professionals.

Robert Half Asia Pacific's managing director, David Jones, said the job market for finance and accounting specialists has stabilised, with greater alignment across WA and Queensland with the rest of Australia. But this increases pressure on employers to rethink their retention and talent acquisition strategies as professionals feel more confident making a move in a stable market.

"As choice increases for qualified candidates, companies intending to recruit and retain talent need to ensure they have skilled managers on the front line and that they are considering the right incentives, including non-financial factors such as skill development and career progression," Mr Jones said.

The research also found that positive sentiment regarding the Australian economy and business growth prospects is stronger than in the second half of 2012.

"While the majority of Australia's senior finance professionals feel confident about their company's economic prospects, we still see evidence of the two-speed economy, with particular strength in the mining industry and weaknesses in financial services," Mr Jones said.


The findings tie in with Hays' view in late December that the financial planning and advice sector was likely to see a continued absence of skilled workers into the New Year.

Hays' head of banking, Jane McNeill, said there is considerable market demand for senior financial planners with strong business development skills and banking experience, as well as for paraplanners.

According to data accumulated by Hays, this increasingly tight market has led to growing salaries for paraplanners employed at boutique firms, and a proliferation of competitive benefits such as flexible working hours.

The regulatory environment has also led to greater demand for financial advice support staff, the data indicate.

She said the lack of skilled financial advice professionals on the market means employers in the sector should increase their focus on staff retention in 2013.

Also in December, eFinancialCareers' managing director for the Asia Pacific, George McFerran, said that financial services businesses should revisit their recruitment and retention strategies to ensure they are fair and equitable for older professionals.

The suggestion followed the company's diversity survey which showed the industry was troubled by age discrimination.

"Making the effort to support and retain experienced workers during this time of slowdown is an essential strategy for [the] long-term success of firms," Mr McFerran said at the time.

"Right now, there is a strong argument for financial services companies to put in place deliberate strategies for engaging and retaining older workers to ease skills shortages and shore up their future for the long term."