Finance workers saw larger salary increases last yearthan the previous year , according toa couple of recent surveys. It's a trend that reflects both thepickup in the economy and the demand for finance skills.

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The 2015 compensation survey from Financial ExecutivesInternational (FEI) showed finance executives at public companiessaw pay hikes of 3.9%, up from the 3.4% increase they reported in2014, while those at private companies saw their pay rise 4.4%,versus 3.3% in 2014.

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The Association for Financial Professionals' 2015compensation survey showed a 4.1% increase in base salaries, upfrom the 3.8% rise reported in the 2014 survey.

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And a finance benchmarking study conducted by FEI and Robert Halfshowed that the cost of finance staff as a percentage of corporaterevenue grew last year at larger companies. Organizations with $500million to $1 billion in annual revenue saw the biggest increase,of 2%, which the study attributed to upward pressure on salariesamid competition for finance workers.

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“Certainly the improving economy is a significant factor that isdriving this,” said Brett Good, a senior district president withstaffing company Robert Half. “The other issue, though, is[that] the complexity of the roles iscontinuing to increase when you look at compliance factors, riskfactors, risk controls, which is requiring greatersophistication.”

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Finance departments “are looking for individuals with a varietyof skill sets, and those are harder to find,” Good said.

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In fact, 68% of CFOs surveyed by Robert Half earlier this yearsaid it was challenging to find candidates to fillprofessional-level positions. That's a notable increase from the63% who viewed that task as challenging in 2014.

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Brett Good, Robert HalfAs individuals with the requisiteskills become harder to find, organizations find themselves forcedto increase the salaries they offer to convince the right hires tosign on, said Good, pictured at left. He linked part of thesituation in finance jobs to the growth of the technology industry,which “has siphoned off many students who might have gone theaccounting or finance route.”

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Richard Bond, president of Bond & Co., a recruiting firm inWestport, Conn., said that as the economy does better, “companiesare looking to kick off various initiatives, and I think theyrealize their staffs are stretched pretty thin. If you're going totake on something new, you normally need to hire people to kick offthe initiative.”

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Good said that his discussions with finance executives suggestthe demand for finance workers is fostering a greater interest in staff retention. He noted that the Bureauof Labor Statistics' JOLT report is showing “a much higher level ofvoluntary quits.

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“To retain the staff you have, to retain what I'll call the'tribal knowledge' of the organization, the history, is becomingmore and more important,” he said. “Organizations are spending moretime and attention on how to increase engagement and retain thestaff they have.”

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The solution isn't just about offering more money in the form ofsalary or equity, Good added, but includes efforts like flexiblescheduling and trying to provide a better work-life balance.

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Treasury Salaries

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The AFP survey showed that employees with some treasury titles,including treasurer, director of treasury and finance, and cashmanager, saw pay increases exceeding those of other financeemployees. This result underscores the key role treasury is playingin companies these days.

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The survey, which includes data on more than 4,200 employees atmore than 2,800 companies, showed that among executives, treasurersled the way in pay raises, with an average salary increase of 4%,up from a 2.8% rise in 2014.

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At the management level, cash managers saw an average increaseof 8.3%, the biggest hike for any of the 20 job titles included inthe survey. That was up from the 2.6% rise cash managers saw in2014. Directors of treasury and finance also did well, according toAFP, with a 7.9% increase, up from 4.6% in 2014.

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“Overall, definitely the increases were healthier than we'veseen in the past,” said Mariam Lamech, manager of survey researchat AFP. “I would say these are important titles toorganizations.”

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Lamech noted, though, that because the survey respondents varyfrom year to year, the salary numbers can fluctuate.

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Good said Robert Half was seeing “more inquiries” in thetreasury space from midsize to large organizations. That demandmight be linked to the strength of the dollar and related currency considerations orthe quantities of cash some large companies have accumulated andtheir need to invest that cash.

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But Bond said that from what he's seen, the increases intreasury salaries lag behind increases for salaries in financegenerally.

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He noted that many companies still look at treasury as a costcenter. And the current interest rate environment works against treasury,Bond said. “I think that corporate management will say interestrates are low and we have enough money, so I don't think [treasurytalent] has been a pressing issue.”

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Bond noted that the job market and the skills in demandcontinuously evolve. He pointed, for example, to strong demandcurrently for individuals who have both cash management and systemsskills, such as experience installing treasury workstations.

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