The headhunters’ view

Greater demands on CFOs mean recruiting for the role today is becoming that much tougher.
Over the past 10 years shrinking deadlines and heightened market activity have created change in CFO expectations, shifting from purely numbers role to more strategic position, focusing on leadership and business development skills. And, according to recruitment experts, these skills are in short supply.
Kerridge & Partners recruitment specialist Vikki Maclean says recently recruiters have been driven offshore to find CFOs who meet these demands.
“A decade ago CFOs had to be incredibly rigorous around numbers and would be forgiven around the leadership space, but the reality now is leaders in finance have to be far more strategic and be seen as leaders in many facets across the business,” says Maclean. “In order to find people with all of these skills we need to search offshore for talent and that often means seeking Kiwi expats looking to come home.”
Even then, Maclean says her shortlists are just that – short lists – particularly around strategic ability. She says while technical experts are not in short supply, those who possess both technical ability and leadership and business development skills are.
“People coming up through the ranks really want to be developed and that’s hard to find in CFO,” says Maclean. “Kiwis who have moved offshore have been exposed to different businesses and therefore have had exposure to good leadership.”
Once relevant Kiwi expats have been identified, the challenge then lies in providing satisfactory remuneration package.
Heidrick and Struggles partner Gary Dick says, while larger companies can afford to bring in the talent, potential CFOs of smaller businesses are expected to adhere to the New Zealand way of life around remuneration, putting many candidates off the idea of making the big move.
“The days of bringing expats in on expat packages have gone,” he says. “The only way we can get offshore people to seriously participate in New Zealand roles is if they’re prepared to live by the New Zealand doctrine and accept our remuneration levels. That eliminates lot of people because they eventually want to return to their country of origin without being disadvantaged in respect to their peer group. If they’re earning pounds, euros or US dollars we often can’t support those levels of remuneration for five years.”
Maclean believes the answer doesn’t lie in high remuneration, even in large businesses. She says successful recruitment depends on time and location.
“If you look at the last five or six CFO appointments over the past six years in New Zealand, we’ve paid excessively to bring talent in from offshore and I don’t think there’s need to do that – often we’ve overinflated it.
“The current exchange rate to bring Kiwi back from Great Britain at the moment has never been more attractive. In fact, they can do marginally better coming home in terms of salary, but not around benefits. As country we’re not big on benefits and that means trying to get CFOs from Australia into New Zealand can be very challenging.”
As the CFO’s role continues to evolve globally, attracting talent will always be challenge, but Maclean is positive about future searches.
“We’ll never have plethora of candidates for these bigger roles but when offshore Kiwis start having their own families there is burning desire to return, and many do eventually.”

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