The Incredible Shrinking Finance Department

CFOs are restructuring finance departments in various ways, an effort that seems likely to continue even as the recession fades.

Says Broadcom’s Brandt: “The problem with outsourcing is that it’s attractive from a cost perspective, but if you’re unhappy with it, it’s hard to take it back in-house, so you have to be confident in your decision long-term.”

Putting Some Fun in Finance

So which finance jobs are staying in the States? Most fall under the broad rubric of FP&A (financial planning and analysis), and most are evolving from repetitive daily duties into something more interesting and of more value to companies. “Most of the hiring right now is of people who can come in and help the business understand how to run,” says John Gimpert, a partner in Deloitte’s finance transformation practice. “And those are much more enriching jobs.”

Brandt, in fact, expects finance departments to continue to grow for this very reason. (He’s grown his department about 60% since 2007, a bit slower than the company’s 75% rise in revenues through 2010.) “Business is moving faster and faster, and the need to have [more information and analysis] is only increasing,” says Brandt. “To the extent that you can add staff at a rate below revenue growth, finance becomes a great resource to help managers understand trends and patterns.”

That, of course, complicates the CFO’s hiring task, since it becomes all the more important to find people with the capacity to grow beyond the roles for which they were first brought on. In the long run, though, it should improve retention and provide a deeper bench for promotions.

“If I were a young professional, I would embrace technical skills and the technology [inherent in finance and accounting work], then work on interpersonal advisory skills,” says Eastman’s Espeland. But, he adds, don’t expect the high demand for finance staff that characterized the middle part of this decade to continue: “In the U.S., it’s going to be all about continuing to be more productive.”

Alix Stuart is senior editor for human capital and careers at CFO.

The state of the finance department in the U.S.

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