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Confidence slumps yet job outlook remains stable

Confidence slumps yet job outlook remains stable

Over three quarters (76 percent) of small businesses concerned about economic prospects facing UK in next six months.

Signs of unease among the UKs finance chiefs became clear today, with less than a quarter (22 percent) of finance leaders feeling more or slightly more confident about the economic prospects facing their company in the next six months, according to the latest Robert Half CFO Confidence Index. This represents a 25-point decline in confidence levels since January.

Chief financial officers (CFOs) and finance directors also were more cynical when asked their opinion on the economic prospects facing the UK as a whole in the next six months, with only 14 percent of those interviewed feeling more or slightly more confident, down from 37 percent who were feeling confident in January.

The aftermath of the British election may have played a part, with a third of CFOs saying that with the election now over, the result would negatively affect the UKs finance and accounting profession. There also seems to be a divide between public and private sector confidence with those in the private sector more or slightly more confident than those in the public sector, 21 percent versus 12 percent.

Despite waning confidence in some sectors, the job market for finance professionals remains steady, with 80 percent of UK CFOs stating that the number of permanent accounting and finance staff employed by their company will either increase (12 percent) or will stay the same (68 percent) in the second half of 2010. This is down 4 points from the January 2010 survey. CFOs based in London were the most optimistic, with 89 percent planning to either hire or maintain current employee counts. Among large businesses, 84 percent of financial executives surveyed said their companies would either be adding or making no changes to the size of their teams.

Commenting on the findings, Phil Sheridan, Managing Director of Robert Half UK said: Whilst the UK job market continues to recover, some employers clearly remain cautious, as can be seen by the fall in confidence levels of the UKs finance leaders. Although rising workloads are cited as a primary reason for taking on additional staff, nearly half of those looking to hire (48 percent) also stated that regulatory requirements were a key driver. This was highlighted further with CFOs saying that they are finding it most challenging to recruit skilled finance professionals in the areas of audit (24 percent) and compliance (22 percent), evidence that those with this type of experience have an opportunity to put their best foot forward and take advantage of the increase in regulatory needs across the UKs business sector.

Temporary and interim workers
The demand for temporary and interim workers also remains strong, with 81 percent of finance directors indicating they would increase (10 percent) or continue to use (71 percent) the same number of interims over the next six months.

Access to skills not currently on the team (50 percent) and managing fixed costs of permanent staff (50 percent) were jointly cited as primary reasons for increasing the number of temporary or interim accounting and finance staff by those questioned.

Phil Sheridan continued: Employers have seen many benefits that can be gained by using temporary or interim accounting and finance staff within their workforce, with cost effectiveness (24 percent) and cover for a key open position (22 percent) cited as the biggest benefits at present. With the need to be flexible in this economic environment, interim staffing has proved to be a great way to provide efficient solutions to staffing needs.

Small Business Confidence
The bi-annual index, conducted by specialist recruitment firm Robert Half (, also revealed that small businesses were particularly nervous, with over half (55 percent) feeling less or slightly less confident about the economic prospects facing their company in the next six months. Additionally, 76 percent of small businesses indicated that they were less or slightly less confident about the economic prospects facing the UK in the next six months.
Other findings included:

Nearly two thirds (63 percent) of finance chiefs are very concerned or somewhat concerned about losing top financial performers to other job opportunities in the next year

Technology and Telecoms was the sector expected to experience the most growth in the next six months, according to a third of those CFOs interviewed

Finance leaders chose the following three leadership skills as the most important for success post-Recession:


Communication skills

Commercial acumen
The Robert Half CFO Confidence Index is based on a phone survey conducted by independent research firm Illuminus of 180 chief finance officers from across the UK, comprising small, medium and large firms, both private and publicly listed and across all major industry sectors. The research was conducted in June 2010.


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