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Be patient and think big: Financial Director careers survey

Financial Director’s survey of FDs’ career experience and
, to which nearly 400 FDs from a range of industries
responded, reveals a group of people who are keenly focused on their next move.
And that move isn’t entirely predictable. What we see is FDs thinking about how
the recession could work for them in their next role ­ considering not only
moving to another FD role in a company in their current industry, but also
switching industries altogether, becoming an FD in a fresh area ­ or even
leaving the finance function altogether.

About half of our respondents think familiarity with the industry they move
into next is not very important, while 77% say an interesting challenge is “very
important”. More than half say the experience the new job will provide is “very

Giving respondents the opportunity to pick multiple options from our palette
of eight, we asked what FDs would seriously consider doing for their next job.
Far from digging their heels in and staying put, promotion to a more senior
finance role within the current organisation appeals to only 34% of respondents,
69% see prospects in a finance role with a rival company and 67% say they would
give serious thought to a finance role in a new industry.

We then asked what FDs think is most likely to happen. Just 10% think they
will be promoted in their current company; less than half of those who would
consider moving to a rival think they will actually do it, while of those who
would go for a new industry, just over half think it a realistic prospect.
Forty-one percent would try a non-financial role, either in their current
company or elsewhere, though only 8% say this is likely for their next role.

Some FDs say they were planning to find their next role around this time and
those FDs now report deciding to stay put. Those who had planned to progress
within their existing company tend to have faith that their business will pull
through and that they can happily bide their time. “For the last 15 months I
have been content to sit put and improve my CV from a range of experiences that
have come my way,” says one FD. “[The current environment] is giving me
excellent experience and my achievements gained against the economic backdrop
are more rewarding,” says another.

Greater opportunities
One FD reports that as a result of his company considering restructuring finance
to have just one department at group level, paving the way for possible
redundancies, moving up within the business is more likely. “I am now open to
roles that previously, I might have thought did not offer enough progression,”
he says.

Others report recession as having added “a new dimension of challenge” to
their role ­ “It has improved my career prospects,” one FD believes. “Prospects
are a lot thinner, but it just means I have to remain at the top of my game and
not become complacent,” says another.

Interestingly, though only half have worked with interim managers, many FDs
are interested in an interim role next. Just over 35% say they would seriously
consider a career as an interim manager or consultant next (though 10% think it
a likely thing).

Not many of the FDs who responded have much experience outside of finance.
Just 39% currently have, or have ever had, any non-financial, line management
responsibility for a business unit or division, or spent time as an MD or CEO of
a product line or geographic area. But most are used to handling responsibility
for either IT, property, facilities, legal matters or even human resources while
serving as FD.

Indeed, half say experience in finance equips individuals to switch
industries very well.

Since 31% of our respondents have been in their current role for more than
five years, there must be a few pairs of itchy feet. Once the bear market
reaches its bottom and the distressed funds or strongest companies move in to c
lear up the debris, the FD could be primed to play a starring role in re
designing and running the new economy.

Despite some pessimism about the short-term, there are many who see the
current economic situation as an opportunity for personal development, to build
their CV ready for the upturn. “It hasn’t affected my goals or ambitions ­ after
a restructure, I have been landed with extra responsibility, which will stand me
in good stead for future opportunities,” says one FD.

To see the full details of our career survey results, click
Director survey

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