August 26, 2011
Financial analysts, accountants can count on increased demand, experts say
Special to NWjobs
At the edge of the brink of the threshold: Insiders say that’s how close the Puget Sound region is to a hiring uptick for some of the most promising finance-related jobs.
It’s a sector that could use a boost. Banking jobs in Washington state were down by 2,400 last year. Local real estate saw a 1,110-job loss. Even when compared with data in other industries, most finance-related jobs are still behind the average, according to the state Employment Security Department.
But when the state’s 2011 forecasts are matched against national projections from the annual Robert Half International finance and accounting salary guide, a hopeful handful of jobs rise to the top of hiring heap:
- Financial analysts. State forecasters predict 15.9 percent growth in the next seven years. Last year’s growth in this sector for King County was 54 jobs, or 1.5 percent.
- Accountants/auditors. After adding 338 jobs with a 1.1 percent bump countywide this year, labor experts project 425 jobs a year through 2018.
Local pay and training
Salary range: $24.56-$55.87 per hour in the Puget Sound area; starting salaries are predicted to climb 4.8 percent at large and midsize companies
Training/education: Northwest University; Seattle University; University of Washington; DeVry University
Salary range: $21.37-$41.57 per hour in the Puget Sound area
Training/education: Seattle Pacific University; Seattle University; University of Washington; Northwest University; University of Phoenix; City University
What’s driving these forecasts?
At Robert Half International’s Seattle office, Pacific Northwest District President Josh Warborg points to optimism among small and midsize local businesses. Employers that have been operating with lean staffing levels tell him they would like to bulk up and start growing again but can’t do that with a bare-bones finance crew — so they’re increasingly turning to staffing agencies for temporary workers.
Pete Shimer, managing partner at the Seattle office of Deloitte & Touche LLP, sees the same trend. Even more encouraging, he says: “Temporary assignments are turning into more permanent assignments.”
A recent report by CareerBuilder backs this up: 31 percent of small businesses say they expect to hire some of their interim staffers as full-timers.
Diane Peterson of Auburn is a poster child for an interim-to-permanent hire.
After 26 years of balancing books, she was let go two years ago, when the manufacturing company she worked for downsized. Hired twice since then, but abruptly released when both employers hit the economic skids, Peterson grew weary of job searching.
Her eventual success came as a temporary finance professional through Robert Half of Seattle. A three-month placement last year with a West Seattle transportation-services company was extended two more times until the firm hired her full time this year.
Peterson believes interim-placement services worked for her because it “let me put my skill set on the line and show what I could do.”
Finance-job temping can turn into full-time work for those “ready to take initiative,” Peterson says. “Any time you can get into a company and prove yourself, you have a leg up.”
In her case, “I started pulling all the financials and credit lines. It gives you a history into your clients,” she says. Before long, she was “digging up some of this old money and getting some cash flow coming in. That’s my nature. I’m a specialist in collections.”
Other employers, including those in health care and technology, are also “choosing to bring in interim financial specialists” as they move back into a growth cycle, according to Warborg.
Top candidates have “expertise in evaluating financial plans, forecasts and budgets,” he says. The best combination: analysts with exceptional communication skills who can assess borrowing structures to ensure competitive funding costs.
Warborg encourages prospective financial analysts to highlight their specialty and “find a recruiting firm in their niche” if they are trying the temp-to-permanent route.
In some cases, financial analysts are also qualified to perform work as credit specialists; bank, fiscal, investment or budget analysts; and financial managers or planners. No matter the title, candidates must be detail oriented and understand the economy, tax laws and money markets.
Working with spreadsheets and statistics is vital, as is being able to communicate complicated financial ideas to others. Advanced study in finance, accounting and economics is important, too. Most earn a Certified Financial Analyst designation or a master’s in Business Administration.
When it comes to landing a job in accounting, it’s not just about what you know; it’s also about where you look.
Deloitte & Touche’s Shimer says many local hiring signs for accountants point to information technology, health care and consumer products.
“Just in our Seattle office, we’re seeing an increased head count of 60 to 100 people across all businesses, which translates to a 5 to 10 percent net increase,” Shimer says.
Even rosier? The one-year outlook, “particularly in accounting and auditing,” he says. “When we plan out 12 to 18 months, we’re looking at an upswing and the need for accounting professionals.”
With 45,000 experts providing audit, financial advisory, tax and consulting services to clients around the world, Deloitte projects hiring growth in “consulting for information technology and an uptick in health care and consumer products,” says Shimer.
That’s good news in the Puget Sound area, where all three industries are major employers. Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment growth for accountants and auditors is expected to be “much faster than average” among other jobs.
Shimer’s advice for those who want to move up: “The characteristic that makes [candidates] more attractive is their willingness and ability to relocate. Demonstrated language and multicultural skills” are vital as companies shift further into a global economy.
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