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Finance Staffing: Should You Recruit or Promote to Fill Key Roles?

It’s an age-old accounting and finance staffing quandary:  to fill key roles, should financial recruiters find talent elsewhere or should the company promote from within? Freescale Semiconductor Inc. CFO Alan Campbell joined Motorola in 1979 with a degree in accounting and just three years’ experience at a utility company. Did he ever imagine he’d stay with the company for more than 30 years? Working his way up the ranks, as Bloomberg’s Businessweek reports, securing roles of increasing responsibility in almost all areas of finance, from general accounting to financial analysis? Or that he would ultimately reach his current CFO status just in time to take his employer to the next level: helping Freescale emerge out of Motorola in 2004 and guiding the company through going private in 2006, and public again in 2011?

This type of employee upward mobility is little more than an accounting and finance staffing fantasy for most organizations. While employee retention is cost-effective, and rewarding star performers can strengthen business culture, there are solid reasons to seek finance and accounting talent elsewhere. HT Staffing Executive Recruiter Corey Walker explains the decision to recruit versus train/promote finance and accounting executives hinges on several factors.

“It’s very situational. You may have long-term employees who fit the potential you’re seeking,” Walker says, “But in the current business environment, it’s more likely that you’ll need to bring someone in who has a proven track record in quickly and expertly maneuvering your organization through new challenges.”

There are three questions that can help you decide when considering accounting and finance candidates.

  1. Are they qualified? As we pointed out in our 2013 Texas Salary Trends article last month, accounting professionals with CPA (Certified Public Accountant) designations are in highest demand statewide. The accounting and finance industry debate rages over the perceived value of other credentials as well: CMA® (Certified Management Accountant), CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), MBA (Master of Business Administration), and more. The bottom line Walker points out, is that each of these credentials exhibits a level of competency and dedication to the field that job experience alone does not. “These days, it’s assumed every finance professional has a Bachelor’s degree,” he explains. “Certifications and accreditations are critical differentiators and an MBA or Master’s degree sets candidates apart even more.”
  2. Can they spearhead change? Walker works with many organizations at the cusp of growth, and states, “These organizations may not know exactly what’s on the horizon, so they’re looking for accounting and finance professionals with experience taking organizations public, managing mergers and acquisitions, or leading technology upgrades to meet global standards.” Since the requirements of change can be most complex at the financial level (acquiring capital, investing in necessary resources, and managing changing assets), the CFO is often the best conductor of change in an organization. Austin-based EZCORP considers change such a large part of business, that CFO Mark Kuchenrither holds an additional – and somewhat unique – title as President of Change Capital, a position responsible for all acquisitions and investment programs.
  3. Do they have a deep understanding of technology? As CFO of Dell, Inc., Brian Gladden is not only responsible for all financial aspects of the business but is also responsible for IT strategy, planning and governance. Of course, technology is the heart of Dell’s business, but one recent Gartner study shows that the CFO’s role in IT investment decisions is increasing in other industries as well.  The Accountancy Futures Academy considers technology a major driver of change for the global accounting profession in other ways as well. Increasing data requirements and standardization will make tech-savvy accounting and finance professionals a critical part of thriving in the global marketplace.

What attributes do you consider to be most effective for key accounting and finance roles today? Do you believe these attributes can more readily be found in current employees or outside the organization?

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