Talking Tax & Treasury: Keeping pace with high demand

Lynley Hall, Tax & Treasury partner in the CFO & Finance practice at Eton Bridge Partners, gives her insight into the current state of the sector.

We have had an extremely busy first quarter in Tax & Treasury, in both permanent and interim hires. In Treasury, many CFOs have been highly concerned about working capital and cash flow. In Tax, candidates with experience in tax planning are in incredible demand, and commanding salaries I have not seen in seven years, partly because supply is lower – this is a very niche skill set.

The landscape across Tax & Treasury has been influenced by the current unstable global economic outlook. There is a lot of political uncertainty out there, with the result that business leaders are concerned about foreign exchange fluctuations, supply chain demands, and ensuring they have enough working capital.

That has led to a high demand for senior Treasurers with a strategic and commercial outlook, backed up by the experience of dealing with similar uncertainty in the past. We have had some strong permanent mandates, and many interim hires, to bolster the seniority of Treasury teams to ensure they have enough working capital to meet their obligations.

“Clients have come to us saying they urgently need someone in place with the right expertise. This is where we use our trusted network to meet that demand.”

There are people I can speak to quickly and close an appointment within a week. These are individuals we use frequently who have contracted through us at other places. We know they are proven and can be placed to help ease the pain points for the clients needing help.

One client of ours came to us very stressed about their working capital. Within two days, I was able to place someone I had known for six years to help them for the next six months on that front. It is great to be able to place people with a solid track record who can really deliver for our clients.

Pay and flexibility are the key drivers for candidates

In a market where demand is so high, candidates are able to drive a hard bargain. We have placed people who are able to command rates 20 or even 30 per cent higher than previously – and they are able to choose between three or four offers at a time. We are advising clients to put in a best offer quickly and to move fast with their processes to ensure they get the right people in place.

“Across Tax & Treasury, many candidates are keen to have flexibility as we return to whatever passes for normal following the pandemic. At the same time, about 90 per cent of our clients say they want people in the office three days a week.”

Candidates want to make sure they can balance that with their lifestyle – and to secure the best rate they can. Pay and flexibility are definitely the two drivers for candidates at the moment.

It can be hard trying to match the expectations of clients and candidates. The key for both sides is open and clear communication, and setting the right expectations. We have to make sure we are marrying the two accordingly and to be highly consultative around each situation to ensure it works for both parties. We are really having to work for our money.

People are less afraid than ever to change jobs

Looking ahead to Q2, I don’t see the concerns around cash flow, working capital and tax planning lessening any time soon. The geopolitical climate is likely to remain uncertain and you also have inflation on the rise, which is a real concern for candidates and their families, and something they are factoring that into their decision-making.

The same drivers of pay and flexibility are at play in the permanent sphere, as well as interim.

“People are more open to opportunities, and less afraid to move jobs, than I have ever seen.”

In some cases, this is because they feel they were treated less than well during the pandemic. In others it is because people are eager to regain some of the ground they fear they may have lost over the last two years.

As a result, the market is buoyant. In some instances, we have to run an interim search parallel to the permanent search, because the permanent hire might have a three-month notice period, or even six if they are very senior, and the client needs an interim in place to keep things working until the permanent person is in situ.

We are also advising clients to focus on future-proofing and retention of staff. During the pandemic, many employers did not have the time to focus on their people’s career development – it was a case of just keeping the lights on. But that can come round to bite you; it is key to have strategies in place to help people’s professional development and ensure they know what pathways are available to keep them moving through a company.

If you would like a confidential career discussion, or you are looking for Tax & Treasury professionals to join your team, please get in touch with Lynley:

Lynley Hall

Tax & Treasury
CFO & Finance

Lynley specialises in delivering senior search mandates and interim appointments across tax, treasury, and finance. With a wide range of clients across the globe; from start-ups looking to appoint their first leadership tax and treasury roles, to global blue-chip organisations across all sectors within commerce and industry.