Corporate Finance Salary Outlook: Robert Half Report Predicts Return to Modest Pay Gains in 2011

By Gentry, Connie R. | Journal of Accountancy, March 2011 | Go to article overview

Corporate Finance Salary Outlook: Robert Half Report Predicts Return to Modest Pay Gains in 2011


Gentry, Connie R., Journal of Accountancy


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

* Across all corporate finance job titles, Robert Half International predicts a 3.1% increase in starting salaries for 2011. That year-over-year progress is up considerably from last year's 0.6% forecast.

* The largest projected climb for corporate finance positions in Robert Half's 2011 Salary Guide is 5% for senior business analysts, who could see starting pay ranging from $56,500 to $85,500.

* Other jobs showing strong year-over-year salary increase predictions include financial analysts and tax accountants.

* Among CFOs, starting salaries are expected to increase this year from 1.8% (in companies under $50 million) to 3.3% (in companies with sales of $250 million to $500 million).

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In corporate finance these days it pays to specialize. A look at anticipated starting salaries for 2011 shows positions that are more niche than generalist in flavor are likely to see the biggest pay gains compared with 2010.

"The more specialized you are, the more desirable you are," said Carol Scott, CPA, vice president-Business, Industry & Government for the AICPA. "The greater opportunity for finance professionals is in specialized roles: regulatory compliance, tax accountants, fraud and forensic accountants."

The largest projected increase in the 2011 Salary Guide published by Robert Half International (RHI) for corporate finance positions is a 5% climb for senior business analysts, who could see starting pay ranging from $66,500 to $85,500. (See Exhibit 1; the 2011 Salary Guide can be downloaded from roberthalf.com/salarycenter.)

Across all corporate finance job titles, the starting salary forecast for this year is sunnier than it was in 2010. Robert Half predicted an average increase of 3.1%--a significant improvement over last year's negligible 0.6% rise. See Exhibit 2 for data on other positions of interest.

Historical trends reflected in the guide, which has been published every year since 1950, suggest the industry may be recovering from the economic crisis at a faster rate than it did after the burst of the dot-com bubble. During the technology run-up, the 2001 Salary Guide predicted a 7.2% increase in the average starting salaries for finance and accounting professionals employed in corporate positions. But by 2002, the forecast was a modest 1.5% increase, and in the next two years the Robert Half guides predicted starting salaries would decrease year over year, dropping 0.3% in 2003 and another 1.1% in 2004. It wasn't until the 2006 forecast, five years after the onslaught of that recession, that accounting and finance starting salaries in corporate settings were expected to increase 3.1%, the same average projected for 2011.

"Accountants are more critical to business than they've ever been," said Dawn Fay, district president for Robert Half's New York/New Jersey market. "Not much changed in accounting for a long time, but then Sarbanes-Oxley happened, new regulations came out of this last downturn, and there has been growing emphasis on the integrity of data and [an undercurrent] of corporate mistrust. All of these factors put added pressure on accounting and finance to report accurate numbers and maintain excellent business practices."

The RHI survey suggested jobs would be added across all levels of corporate finance, Fay said. The challenge, she said, is finding candidates with diverse capabilities, from technical expertise to systems knowledge and soft skills. "Employers need individuals with strong communications skills who can articulate forecasts and report numbers in meetings," she said.

HOT JOBS

Business analysts are among the most sought-after corporate finance professionals, according to Robert Half. Companies of all sizes are seeking business analysts at every level, largely because these positions marry technology and accounting. …

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