Saturday May 18, 2013
On this Armed Forces Day, it is worth noting that the financial services industry has a longstanding affinity for hiring military veterans, especially for positions such as financial advisors. A year ago, Edward Jones launched a new initiative in this vein, called the FORCES program. It is designed to qualify as a training program covered under G.I. Bill provisions that provide supplemental income while the beneficiary is participating. Nonetheless, receiving such benefits is not a requirement for participation.
Already a major employer of veterans, to date Edward Jones has hired nearly 500 additional vets as financial advisors under the FORCES program. Follow the link for details.
Tuesday May 14, 2013
In difficult times, unscrupulous characters prey upon desperate people. If you are a job hunter, be especially careful about unethical placement firms with questionable practices, such as charging job seekers for arranging interviews with prospective employers. This violates the job placement industry's accepted canon of ethics. The standard model is for placement firms to be paid by the hiring company, either on a commission or on a retainer basis.
Even in flush times, you have to beware of shady operators. I found my way into Merrill Lynch via a small placement firm that had forged a close relationship with the corporate CFO and controller. This was right before the big market crash of October 1987, and Merrill's financial organization was hiring like gangbusters at that time, looking to beef up internal controls and analytic capabilities. It later transpired that one partner at that firm was extracting kickbacks from candidates who landed jobs through his efforts. He was the my initial contact at that firm, and handled my case for a while before handing it off to one of his partners. I had no idea of his underhanded actions (which resulted in his forced exit from that firm) until after I landed the job, and his partner called to check on my satisfaction with the new job.
Friday May 10, 2013
I've emphasized over and over, both in blog posts and in articles, that financial professionals are expected to do a lot more than just the traditional accounting and financial functions, especially in the financial services industry. My colleague Alison Doyle once brought to my attention a survey commissioned by finance and accounting job placement firm Robert Half Management Resources on just this very topic.
The bottom line: the 1,400 CFOs surveyed, covering a broad sample of companies by size and industry, expect senior accountants to have increasing amounts of their time devoted to non-traditional functions, such as strategic planning and information technology projects. On average, the CFOs surveyed believe that a typical senior accountant spends just over a third of his or her time on such non-traditional functions, and they projected this figure to climb steadily over time.
Of course, this is a survey and not a detailed, scientific time and motion study. Moreover, it is a survey in which high-level managers make guesses about how subordinates (some of them well down the line) actually utilize their time. So, while we should take the actual numbers with a big block of salt, it still seems to prove the point that senior accountants are expected to do a lot more than simply tally up figures and produce reports, and that these expectations are growing over time.
While I am not accountant by trade, I did spend several years as a departmental controller at Merrill Lynch. As I have noted previously, I spent more like 90% of my time on such non-accounting functions while in this position. In the Robert Half survey, 20% of respondents felt that the typical senior accountant would spend over 50% of his or her time on non-traditional functions five years from now.
The lesson for accountants: advancement is bound to depend more and more on the ability to take on duties and add value far beyond the job descriptions historically associated with accounting positions.
Sunday May 5, 2013
The financial press has been filled with reports in recent years about widespread bank branch closures, especially by the largest banking corporations. Here's yet another indication of the manic-depressive nature of the financial services industry. The banking sector has gone through repeated alternating waves of aggressive branch expansion and contraction.
Way back in 2009, an article in the July 29 issue of the Financial Times quoted one analyst who believed that the (then) pending creation of a new, heavily politicized, regulatory agency for consumer financial products was a major initial impetus for closures, before such an agency could interfere with banks' ability to close unprofitable branches if they are in poor or recession-hit neighborhoods. Whether or not that actually was the case, many banks are finding their expensive branch networks to be a drag on profits, and they are cutting back accordingly. Follow the link for details.
In sum, this trend means reduced job opportunities in bank branches, also including back office functions that support branch operations. The silver lining: there are increased opportunities in information technology, as banks meet increasing demand for delivering services via the Internet or mobile phones.