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A Sign of recovery? Financial professionals getting itchy feet

Rob Sabo

High-level financial employees who changed jobs frequently before the recession are expected to begin testing the waters as the economy improves in northern Nevada.

Before the downturn, chief financial officers, chief operating officers and directors of finance often jumped fences to reach locations where the grass was greener, says Katie Weigel, division director for financial and accounting staffing firm Robert Half International.

But as the recession descended upon the region, and companies whittled staff to bare-bones levels, people held on dearly to their jobs, Weigel says. However, she’s beginning to see a shift in the financial world as executive-level workers begin targeting new opportunities.

“There is a pent-up demand for people to make a change, and as consumer and individual confidence begins to rise they will be more willing to take risks,” Weigel says. “Right now people are pretty risk-adverse, but as that changes companies will lose people.”

Mike Davis, shareholder with Barnard, Vogler & Co. CPAs, says his firm already has lost several important higher-level staff accountants to private industry firms. Several of the firm’s clients also have lost their CFOs to job switching, Davis adds.

“There seems to be some demand, and believe me, we like to hang on to our people. That tells me that something is happening out there. The economy is improving, and people have to have their taxes done and their financial statements need to go to banks, so there is a growing need for financial professionals.”

Some financial workers will change jobs for higher salaries, while others will leave for a fresher work environment, Weigel says. When Reno was in a growth mode, she says, companies had more new and exciting things to offer their employees. Since then, many firms in the region have been in a holding pattern and don’t have that excitement factor of new challenges to offer their workers.

Retention also will prove crucial to private-sector businesses in the coming year, Weigel says. Countless firms trimmed financial staff to cut overhead, and the people still on board now fill vital operating roles. Regional businesses can’t afford to lose those key employees.

To keep key financial staff, Weigel says, many businesses have reinstated raises and bonus packages that were eliminated during the recession.

“They can’t afford to not pay them what they expect to be compensated at, and that’s at least what they were making five years ago,” she says. “Most of them also expect to have cost of living adjustments of 3 to 5 percent per year.”

In most cases, salaries for corporate, public accounting and other financial positions in the Reno-Sparks area are projected to rise between 3.5 to 4 percent, says Robert Half’s 2013 salary guide for financial and accounting positions. Currently, salaries for financial professionals are at 94 percent of the national average the past two years. Prior to that, though, Reno was at 101 percent of national salary figures.

“We fell to the national average with the downturn, which makes sense because our area had been impacted more severely,” Weigel says.

Salaries are projected to rise, she adds, because of the quality of available applicants. Employers seek top-notch financial workers many of whom already are employed and they can’t lure them away from safe positions without providing lucrative compensation packages.

“Companies have set the bar so high,” Weigel says. “They are selective in who they hire. The process takes longer, and they have fewer candidates to choose from. They don’t pull the trigger unless they are sure.”

Robert Half has not filled as many transactional or accounting clerk positions because companies often can identify candidates to fill these positions on their own and can avoid paying placement fees, Weigel says. Robert Half also has sought candidates out of the Truckee Meadows to fill a handful of higher-level accounting positions this year.


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