Canadian Market Needs C-Suite Execs with Operations Experience

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Canada's job market is ripe with opportunities for chief financial officers, controllers, and chief operating officers with operations and debt financing experience, a major Quebec-based recruiter reports.

"In 2009 we were very surprised to encounter a very good year for recruiting CFOs," says Nathalie Francisci, executive vice president at Mandrake Groupe Conseil in Montreal.

The interest in C-suite professionals highlights Canada's ongoing love affair with financial executives of all stripes - including accountants, in-house financial analysts, and now, CFOs able to deal with debt and restructuring.

Demand for financial professionals held strong even a year ago, when full-time unemployment in Canada reached 8 percent for the first time in seven years. That trend continues today, says Francisci.

2 Percent Jobless Rate for In-House Finance Pros

As of March 2010, Canada's overall unemployment rate is still higher - 8.2 percent. Yet the jobless rate for corporate analysts, accountants and treasury executives hovers near 2 percent, according to Francisci. That's boosting job-seekers' bargaining power with employers when negotiating packages and perks like vacations.

"The placement rate for finance professionals now is maybe 80 - 85 percent," she says. "The most in-demand positions in 2010 are for chief financial officer and controller."

Needed qualifications are also changing fast, however. Francisci says strategy and operations experience have emerged as make-or-break qualities: Mandrake Groupe's last three placements called for CFOs with the leadership potential to become chief operating officer.

Prior to the financial crisis, being considered for the C-suite usually required IT savvy to understand and implement the various ERP (enterprises resources planning) systems being added across Canada. Now that those systems have been implemented, "The next challenge is operations optimization and change management," Francisci observes.

And of course, candidates for CFO or corporate controller still need a Chartered Accountant certification.

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