The Worst Job in Finance

Posted on 24. Jan, 2007 by in Accounting, Business

What’s the worst job to have in the finance and accounting industry? I’ll give you a hint: 12 of them employed at the Fortune 50 jumped ship in 2006 after breaking under new regulatory pressure.

In today’s Sarbanes-Oxley world, the chief financial officer post – once a finishing school for future CEOs – has become the crummiest gig in the corporate suite. Combine the workload necessary to comply with the controversial 2002 legislation and the knowledge that you’re almost certainly the sacrificial lamb if the SEC comes calling, and it’s a recipe for skyrocketing turnover.

Being in the external audit field myself, I can see why so many CFOs are jumping ship when so much rides on their signature on that 10-k filing of the financial statements. And with the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, the CFOs are not only responsible for the financial statements, but also responsible for the way that their company’s controls are functioning – which is a lot of responsibility for just one man (or woman). I know that I wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of pressure – especially when the threat of lawsuits and jail time looms overhead.

However, with so many CFOs leaving industry, companies are compensating in one of two ways. The first is the use of temps. Tatum, an executive services firm, has grown its network of CFOs-for–hire, who work on a project basis, from 179 partners in 1999 to over 500 today. “The CFO is moving toward a lawyer model,” says Tatum managing partner Cindie Jamison. “You have one for M&A, then another one for a patent case. it’s not one person for everything.”

The other solution is to create a new position: the “Chief Accounting Officer“, equipped to handle the technical aspects of finance. Microsoft and Comcast recently hired star CFOs by pairing them with highly regarded CAOs. “People getting in now should have high ambitions,” says Karpoff. “I expect to see CFOs becoming important again.”

So now that you’ve seen some of the pressures that current CFOs are under, would you take the job?

One Response to “The Worst Job in Finance”

  1. mapgirl

    24. Jan, 2007

    SOX compliance has been the worst part of my IT job in the last 4 years. (That and b*tchy customers, but those have gone away and SOX is still with me.)

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