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Global Robert Half Study Reveals Financial Executives Are Trippin’ Over Retaining Talent

Forgive me for suggesting this to (alleged) financial professionals but perhaps if they treated their current talent like, well, talent as opposed to third-rate street whores, they might not have this problem. One need look no further than the comment section on any of our salary posts to find warranted discontent, anger, frustration and threats of exodus.

The Robert Half Global Financial Employment Monitor was developed by Robert Half International and is based on surveys conducted by independent research firms. The study, focusing on hiring difficulties, retention concerns and business confidence, includes responses from more than 6,000 financial leaders across 19 countries.

Here are the key findings:

• Two-thirds, 67 percent, of financial leaders reported at least some level of recruiting difficulty. Approximately one out of five (19 percent) respondents said it is very challenging to find skilled accounting and finance professionals today.

• Retention concerns are rising. Globally, 56 percent of executives said they are either very or somewhat concerned about losing top performers to other job opportunities in the year ahead. This is an 11-point jump from the 2010 survey.

• In the United States, 43 percent of executives cited worries about keeping their best people. This is up from 28 percent in 2010.

• Eighty-nine percent of respondents reported being at least somewhat confident in their organization’s growth prospects for the coming year.

Survey nerds can dig deeper into the research highlights or data tables for more information.

More disturbing, retention issues seem to be a globally pervasive issue. More than half of executives, 56 percent, said they are very or somewhat concerned about losing valued employees to other opportunities in the coming year. This compares to 45 percent who cited retention concerns in the 2010 survey.

In some countries, the results were much higher. The number of executives worried about keeping key employees is up 16 points in Singapore, for example; 91 percent of respondents there said they see retention as an issue. In Hong Kong and Brazil, 88 percent and 85 percent of financial leaders, respectively, noted retention concerns.

What this means, of course, is that if any of you are desperate for work and somewhat decent at your jobs, you might want to look into tapping these markets. Despite what the IASB may like you to think, U.S. GAAP isn’t dead and knowledge of it is still a marketable skill, though a decent command of international standards will obviously benefit you more going forward.

Or turn your keepers’ fears into a tool to be leveraged and get yourselves raised up to at least second-rate street whore. Stranger things have happened.

Comp Watch ’11: Rumors of Imminent Exodus at Ernst & Young Has Some Perplexed

This just in:

I have been talking to a variety of people at E&Y from several offices in Ohio and Michigan. The word from them is that there is going to be a significant movement of people once compensation info is passed out. It’s kinda conflicting since the rumor is that raises should be around what they were last year. Not sure what to make about it.

As you recall, last year’s raises and bonuses at Ernst & Young were competitive with PwC, which came as a pleasant surprise to everyone at Black and Yellow but understandably this rumor has our tipster in a flummox. Of course, this could be limited to the Ohio/Michigan area but it’s worth seeing what the Turley’s Troops in other areas are hearing. Share below.

Comp Watch ’11: Grant Thornton Auditors Want Some Love After a Tough Busy Season

From the mailbag:

Apparently, management finally recognizes that this was a real shitty busy season and as a last ditch effort to keep hemorrhaging seniors, is going to give some large bonuses and raises. Audit is to get increased comp because of how bad it was on our side. I mean GT-Chicago lost 3 seniors right before and 3 during busy season. Plus, we had a team working on a restatement that were working 80-100 hour weeks since November. I know GT will never pay out like the Big 4, but I’m curious to see if we’re in the ballpark this time around.

Who doesn’t love aggravated Grant Thornton auditors on a Monday morning? Frankly (and I know I’m not alone here), I’ll be floored like an Animal Kingdom Superfecta ticket holder, if GT pays out like the Big 4. However, because Stephen Chipman and GT have been on such a tear the past year – shedding less dynamic offices, making dynamic acquisitions – it’s possible some at GT may see better raises this year but it I’m guessing it won’t be the audit practice.

But our tipster’s email seems fairly optimistic (in a bitter, burned out auditor sort of way) since the attrition variable seems to be in full effect. If GT SAs are indeed heading for the exits, then perhaps there will be some pleasantly surprised GT dynamos after last year’s disappointment. Keep us updated.

Public Accounting Exodus Watch 2011 (Poll)

Earlier I attempted to give a BDO senior manager some perspective on the how to deliver the news that he was jumping ship. Oddly enough, a friend of GC also sent us this message yesterday:

Since this ‘Tis the Season’ for attrition, it would be interesting to see a survey on who is looking for employment beyond their current employ.

So since we like to get a feel for such things, we’re putting on a little poll to see how many people are grabbing life preservers. Vote in the poll after the jump and discuss the particulars in the comments.

Intern Concerned About the Quasi-Exodus at His Firm

Welcome to the first (maybe second, depending on your CPA overlord) busy season hump day edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an intern 2.0 is concerned that everyone he knew from year one has disappeared. Has the exodus reached Old Testament levels? Were they abducted by aliens? Or can we chalk this up to a serial killer of CPAs?

Need survival tips for your first busy season? Are you an auditor getting a flood of requests for tax advice? Are you a tax pro suffering from nightmares of killer tax forms chasing you around a maze of cubicles? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll provide some snappy comebacks or a good therapist.

Back to intern 2.0:

Hi Caleb,

I started my 2nd internship recently, with a national firm, and I quickly noticed that everyone I worked with last year has left the firm.

By everyone, I mean all 5 of my seniors and another staff member. Is this common? At this rate I shouldn’t even bother learning people’s names, as I’ll work with them once and never see them again.

Thanks,
Concerned intern

Dear Concerned Intern,

Truth be told, this mass disappearance of your superiors can only mean one thing – they found out you were coming back for your second tour and concluded that they would rather take their chances with the job market than spend another waking minute with your amateur ass.

Okay that’s probably not true at all but depending on the size of your office, six people could be a lot or a little. Offices like New York, Chicago, L.A., San Fran, Silicon Valley can lose six people in one day and no one bats a green eyeshade. If you’re in Kansas City or Memphis, six people could be the staff from an entire line of business and that can cause some managers and partners to have a nervous breakdown. So generally, there should be a inverse correlation between your concern about colleagues disappearing and the size of your office. But to put into an even broader context, you shouldn’t worry about people leaving PERIOD. Why, you ask? Cries of “It’s going to mean more work for me!” or “Busy season will suck even worse!” are common but people need to realize – this is the nature of the beast. People get burned out or laid off OR find a great job in-house somewhere OR suffer death by bindering (akin to stoning).

In other words, this is the business, kid. People leave. You’ll meet them, you’ll work with them, you may hate or love them but eventually most people jet. It’s just a matter of when and how.

KPMG Partner Doesn’t Understand Why People ‘Are Dropping Like Flies’

From the mailbag:

Hey Caleb,

Was with a [Midwest city] KPMG Advisory partner this weekend. She said that employees are dropping like flies because KPMG finally unveiled raises after 2 yrs without. Only EP’s were awarded (less than 5%). She said the numbers were in the double digits. What the hell did they expect?


If this sounds a little confusing, it was. We asked our tipster to clarify:

[A]re you saying that she’s under the impression that people are just now leaving because they are upset that they didn’t get raises for two years? And she’s surprised because the raises in the double digits when they were actually in the single digits?

And their response:

[S]he is surprised that so many are leaving especially given the unemployment rate in [midwest city] regardless of how long it’s been since raises were given. It’s not a secret that the other big four have not only given raises but as you report, awarded mid-yr bonus/raises as well.

We went back to some of this year’s KPMG comp threads and the 5% sounds a little suspect, as those rated as “exceptional” were pulling much better increases than that but then again, maybe there were some exceptions that weren’t reported. Also, it seems a little strange that a partner would be so clueless about raises but anything is possible, s’pose.

And as far as the gnashing of teeth because mid-year raises and bonuses are being handed out at other firms, keep in mind that KPMG isn’t even out of their first quarter yet. The rest of those firms have fiscal years that end prior to KPMG’s and they know how the first half of the year is shaping up. Expecting KPMG to start throwing money at people with less than three months in the books is a little ridiculous. At this point, the rumors around the idea of a mid-year surprise should keep you hopeful (but don’t go expecting anything).

It’s been no secret that people have exiting the House of Klynveld (and other firms) – regardless of the unemployment situation – prior to the end of the year (as is typical this time of year). Frankly, people we talk to are pretty optimistic about the job situation for most Big 4 types looking for something new, so this partner may be even more clueless than we thought.

Whatever the case, only 17 shopping days until those left will likely settle for sitting tight through another busy season. If we’re way off base here (or right on the money), feel free to jump in.

Exodus Watch: 600+ in Grant Thornton’s Hong Kong Office Move to BDO

What in the name of Stephen Chipman’s dubious accent is going on here? Why would a firm shut down an office in an emerging financiaosing six hundred partners and professionals to one of their rivals?

If you ask BDO’s Hong Kong Chairman and CEO Albert Au Siu-cheung, it has nothing to do with the disappearance of former GT managing partner Gabriel Azedo. It’s simply a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that found its way into the lap of BDO:


From the South China Morning Post:

“The opportunity to have a massive admission of so much established accounting talent is rare. This will strengthen BDO’s competitiveness in the local accounting industry,” Au said. “This will also create a bigger mid-tier firm allowing listed companies a choice for auditing and professional services in future.”

Au said the recruitment would be completed by the end of this year, and all staff and partners would become part of BDO, while Grant Thornton would cease operation in Hong Kong. Grant Thornton’s clients – including 130 listed companies audited by the firm – had been notified of the change and most agreed to make the switch to BDO, Au said.

Au said lawsuits involving Grant Thornton’s missing boss, former managing partner Gabriel Ricardo Dias-Azedo, were not a factor in the move.

This is a head scratcher for sure. Although this isn’t the first time a major firm has had mysterio issues in H to the K. Last year, Ernst & Young’s office was raided for the firm’s involvement with Akai that ultimately resulted in the firm paying a rumored $400 million to settle the case.

We reached out to PR at Grant Thornton’s International office but since they’ve probably been at the pub for hours already, we’re still awaiting a response.

We did find this announcement from Grant Thornton International which states that the firm has a new “member firm” in HK but nothing about the movement of the 600 professionals:

Grant Thornton has announced the appointment of a new member firm in Hong Kong. The new practice, set up by Grant Thornton China, will begin trading as Jingdu Tianhua Hong Kong but will adopt the name “Grant Thornton” in due course. The new firm will be led by Daniel Lin, an established and highly regarded member of the accounting profession in Hong Kong.

[…]

The new firm plans to have a staff of over 100 people within 12 months. Significantly, it will be fully integrated with Grant Thornton China and be part of a network of 10 offices providing seamless access to 65 partners and over 1,500 professionals across mainland China and Hong Kong.

Ed Nusbaum, chief executive officer of Grant Thornton International explains, “Grant Thornton has long been committed to a strategy of an integrated approach to serving clients across the China market, including Hong Kong. This appointment of Jingdu Tianhua Hong Kong is a vital step in that strategy and our member firms, now over 100 in number, look forward to working with their new colleagues in Hong Kong.”

Okay, so a “vital step” includes the closing of an office the defection of 600 professionals and “130 listed companies” for an office with less than 100 people total? Can anyone – looking straight at you Ed – explain this? Since he’s pretty hard to nail down we’ll take your theories for now.

Exodus Watch: Some Are Concerned About the Direction of KPMG’s Headcount

Granted, this does not take into effect the 23 soon-to-be KPMG Kampers jumping over from Grant Thornton but at least one Klynveldian was concerned enough to send us this:

Our source told us, “Linkedin.com gives these updates to those listed as KPMG employees.” Thinking this over, this may be trailing the movement we’ve seen over the last couple of months (since no one updates their LinkedIn accounts). Or this could just be the latest round of ship jumpers. With comp adjustments coming up relatively soon, you’d think people would sit tight for just a smidge longer to see how things shake out. OR maybe these LinkedIn numbers are just a bunch of malarkey and our source is going ape for no reason. We’re not really at liberty to say.

Discuss the latest bodycount in your office.

The KPMG New York Exodus Picks Up Steam

Last month we touched on a possible exodus starting in KPMG’s New York office with the news that a number of people had given their notice to leave the firm. A few readers were not impressed with the news including Hyperbole:

6 people leave a massive office in an industry that even in a slow year expects 10-15% voluntary turn. I’m all for ripping on the firms, but this is a little ridiculous…

“DAMANGE CONTROL BEGINNING: 26 FANS LEAVE LAKERS GAME AT HALF TIME

EXODUS!!!!”


However, another commenter, blah felt that this was just the beginning:

I believe the exodus is coming. Folks are pretty pissed off these days and there are a lot of career opportunities out there right now for us.

Now, here we are, a month later and it sounds as though the numbers are increasing quickly as we have had multiple sources confirm that approximately 12-15 professionals have given recent notice between the banking and asset management groups – two of the largest in the New York office. The majority being SA2s, SA3s as well as experienced managers.

Our sources have indicated that many more are actively looking and that this is not the “normal attrition” that is expected by a firm. One recent SA that gave their notice was kind enough to send us a copy of their farewell email that sounds – oddly – inspired. After drying your eyes (or throwing up in your mouth), feel free to discuss the latest conga line going out of 345 Park.

Allow me to leave you with a few words of inspiration on this most joyous day:

BLOOD ALONE MOVES THE WHEELS OF HISTORY!

Have you ever asked yourselves in an hour of meditation – which everyone finds during the day – how long we have been striving for greatness?

Not only the years we’ve been at war the war of work but from the moment as a child, when we realize the world could be conquered. It has been a lifetime struggle a never-ending fight, I say to you and you will understand that it is a privilege to fight. WE ARE WARRIORS! Accountants of New York City, I ask you once more rise and be worthy of this historical hour. No revolution is worth anything unless it can defend itself. Some people will tell you accountant is a bad word. They’ll conjure up images of used car dealers, and door to door charlatans. This is our duty to change their perception. I say, accountants of the world… unite. We must never acquiesce, for it is together… TOGETHER THAT WE PREVAIL. WE MUST NEVER CEDE CONTROL OF THE MOTHERLAND…

Exodus Watch ’10: KPMG New York

From somewhere deep inside 345 Park Ave:

“Damage control beginning – 3 managers and 3 SAs out.”


It’s our understanding that this is the audit side of the house in financial services. No indication at this point whether it’s promotion de-nied related or if it’s has something to do with the unconfirmed compensation rumors we’re hearing.

If you’ve got details on comp, promotions, or lack thereof, email us with the details.

Deloitte Is Totally Cool with You Jumping Ship

A GC reader from Deloitte emailed me the notes from a recent meeting for management on the health of its staff levels. Our source had the following to say:

I’m a senior in D&T (making manager in the fall) and thought the minutes from a recent manager meeting were interesting in terms of HR’s take on attrition. It does match what you’ve said in your column, i.e. they plan for a certain level of attrition, but I don’t think they even want to consider that there could be a cause for concern.

Management Community Feedback

Retention: Previous S. Manager / Manager Practice meeting unity is seeking additional clarity as to where the firm is heading, in the short term and long term (i.e., economics, compensation, etc.).

HR Audit Update: As of the time of the meeting, specific numbers are not known

DWB: Staff complaints, questions, and concerns, are summed up with the phrase “community is seeking additional clarity.” People want to know what the *#&! to expect in these still-somewhat-unclear times. Oh, and HR? They can run their “numbers” in minutes. Why they were not shared is a mystery; a concerning one at that.

Senior Turnover: Managers feel concerned with the leadership leaving at the senior level – potential for additional turnover in the fall

HR Audit Update: Turnover is comparative to 2 – 3 years ago so not considered a concern.

• Recent increase in the number of seniors that are voluntarily leaving the firm when compared to those trends seen in the last 12 – 18 months
• Region is looking at approximately 75 new hires
• Restrictions on inter-office transfers are being lifted

DWB: A lot to take away from this.

1) Managers are vocalizing the fact that people are leaving; this goes beyond the typical public accounting attitude of “good riddance.”

2) Turnover in 2007 was incredible. Do you remember what the market was doing in 2007?! It was a rip-roaring success. To compare it to that time frame and say it is “not considered a concern” is troubling. The difference between then and now is D&T was hiring like gang-busters themselves at that time so the attrition was not “felt” as severely as it’s being felt now. Layoffs and frozen hiring budgets make the recent staff losses more significant.

3) More people quitting now than during the recession? What research expert included that bullet point?

4) Inter-office transfers being reintroduced is a positive point; expect an announcement about this spun in the HR-style of “woo-hoo, now you can work in St. Louis!” And by St. Louis they mean Branson, Missouri.

What to do?

• Create a positive environment for the seniors and staff
• Leverage personal experiences to keep seniors/staff motivated
• Express advantages a “manager” position can add to one’s career path when looking at long-term goals.
• HR Advisory Update: National recruiting expects a good group in the Mid-West. Comparative attrition trends are taking place even though it may feel that the turnover rate is higher than normal.

DWB: Talking about the glory days of D&T audits doesn’t sound exciting, but sometimes it’s enough of a Kool-Aid effort to keep staff motivated. And look! Attrition rates are right where they want them to be. So all of you on under-staffed, over-worked projects? Yeah, this is the type of environment they plan for.

I’ll let our anonymous tipster finish off the commentary:

At least they might try to “create a positive environment” for me. I’d be really concerned if HR actually believes this or if they just don’t want to panic the managers. (Incidentally, I will be leaving after they give me the promotion.)

Here’s What Big 4 Accountants Need to Know About the Current Job Market

Ernst & Young’s red alert email that was shared by GC yesterday should not be taken lightly. Doesn’t matter where you work – your job is about to get harder.


Chances are your most recent busy season was relentlessly terrible. A year removed from rounds of cuts and going on two years with zilch for a raise, the masses at the Big 4 are getting antsy, as they should. It’s now or never. Raises are coming. People are leaving. What should you do?

Consider it professional osmosis – Remember high school science labs? Same theory applies to today’s financial services job market. In one Petri dish there are overworked and underpaid public accountants; the other has job openings and cash flow. It doesn’t take a lesson from your high school chemistry teacher (or me) to explain how this one works. The back offices of financial markets are increasing their numbers as investments begin to flow in again.

Better than a tax refund – The job market for tax professionals will hopefully see its typical action this summer. According to a recent FINS article, interest in making a change is at an all-time high, “43% of tax professionals are hoping to change jobs when the economy evens out, according to a survey by the large U.S. finance headhunter Ajilon Professional Staffing. ‘That’s a large number — one of the largest numbers than we’ve seen in years,’ said Jodi Chavez, a senior vice president at Ajilon.”

Does this mean 43% of your staff is jumping ship? Hell no. The job market is warm not on fire. But it does mean that you should expect to see more “Farewell” emails like this one. If your buddies skip town in a similar fashion to that letter, please share with us.

What about this E&Y thing? Well…I don’t know. Desperate times sound like they’re wrapped up in a formal message with a $7,500 ribbon on top. KPMG made a similar request for advisory reinforcements a few weeks back but they didn’t go so far to make a public plea for external hires. The E&Y situation is probably not as bad as it’s being played out here at GC; it could be a pre-emptive move to protect the practice from layoffs. How bad is it really? We need to know. Get on the horn and tell us in the comments.