Interview with John Moskonas
Interviewer: Andrew Zezas, SIOR
Following is the transcript of a CFO Studio video between Andrew Zezas, CEO of New Jersey based Real Estate Strategies Corporation and financial executive, John Moskonas.
Visit www.CFOstudio.com to read about this interview and to watch the entire video interview
Finance Executive Career Market
Zezas: Hi, this Andrew Zezas, President and CEO of New Jersey based Real Estate Strategies Corporation and your host at CFO Studio. We have the distinct pleasure today of having with us John Moskonas. John is the President of the AR Group of Search companies and is here to talk to us today about exciting opportunities, and what’s going in the careers of CFOs & senior finance executives. John, it’s nice to have you here today. Thanks for being with us.
Moskonas: Thanks for having me Andy.
Zezas: John, there’s some interesting dynamics occurring in career opportunities for senior finance executives and CFOs. So, let me start by asking the first question: how’s the market for CFO jobs?
Moskonas: You know Andy, that’s the question I always get. How’s the market? And, the answer I always give now is, it’s mixed. You hear the reports that are out there and there’s no consensus in terms of which direction the economy is going. And, so I can say we’re bouncing along the bottom, but there are opportunities out there if you look for them.
Zezas: Okay, so I mean consistently everyone is saying the economy is mixed. You’re saying the career market is mixed as well? The market for careers- for CFO careers has changed drastically from what you told me in the last five years. What’s occurred, what’s changed?
Moskonas: Well, if you look back at around 2006-2007, the unemployment rate was close to 5%. Prior to that, the unemployment rate had gone up to about 7 ½%. It took a couple of years to get down to about 5%, which is a great level between supply and demand. Now, the unemployment rate is closer to 10% and you know what it’s going to take a few years to get down to 5% again. More than a few years, but that’s okay. There are pockets out there. You know Andy, in today’s current regulatory environment, if you’re a compliance person or an internal controls person or risk-management person, there certainly are opportunities out there.
Zezas: So, someone with a specialty, someone who’s a specialist as opposed to a generalist in finance, the opportunity is greater for specialists.
Moskonas: Yeah, that’s for sure.
Zezas: Well, that makes sense. So given that, there are greater opportunities for specialists, and generalists are having a bit of a challenge. We know the economy is still mixed and we still have tremendous unemployment, but the real question is, are companies hiring?
Moskonas: Companies are hiring. You’ll just have to find the correct pocket. A few years back, companies were hiring because the company was growing. They were making acquisitions, they were doing post-acquisition integration. A lot of dynamics, succession planning, which was needed because the CFO was going to take on a larger and larger role and now that piece has gone away. But, what’s left of course are succession planning roles or perhaps the person that’s in place just isn’t right for the current situation and there’s a need for change, etc. So on balance, the growth isn’t there, but there are still opportunities out there if you look for them.
Zezas: So, again, focusing on the concept of specialization. Historically, CFOs, senior finance executives, were generalists and they did everything and they basically had lifelong careers.
Zezas: Now, you’re saying that those lifelong careers pretty much gone in the way of the dinosaur. But, there’s a series of specialist opportunities and because the role of CFO is so vast, there are so many specialties embedded in the role of CFO that there are so many more opportunities, albeit shorter, and with a different dynamic.
Moskonas: Correct. Every company will hire for the situation that’s at hand with the company. So, it used to be that CFOs had a job for X number of years. Now, the typical CFO tenure is two to five years, but that’s okay as long as you can keep up with what’s going on. As long as you can communicate to the CEO what you’re good at and assuming that you make an assumption that you’re going to be in a different role in five years.
Zezas: Right. Understood, understood. Are there specific industries or salary levels that are offering more job opportunities? You said that jobs are available and companies are hiring. Is it across all companies or are there specific industries that are more focused?
Moskonas: We specialize in accounting, finance, and the insurance industry, typically on the carrier side. So, I can only talk to my industry. Salary levels have come down between 10% and 20% on average, but there’s an awful lot of consulting that’s going on. For instance: I had a good friend, just as an example, who was a general auditor for a mid-sized insurance firm and he was looking for a little while. But, he took a consulting opportunity, which actually turned into more of an operational role for him later on because he had the background in internal controls and he had seen so much of the operation. But, he never would have had that chance unless he had stepped into that consulting role first off.
Zezas: So, he basically earned his spurs in the consulting role and built a relationship. And, they realized what his background was and it turned out to be a great story.
Moskonas: It happens all the time.
Zezas: Is anything different for the job market when comparing senior financial level executives to mid-level executives?
Moskonas: Well, good question! If you think of a pyramid, there are more bricks in the middle of pyramid than there are at the top of the pyramid. So, any company that is really committed to a talent pool is pipelining in mid-level talent with the supposition that these are the people that are going to lead the company later on. So yeah, there’s a few more of those roles out there than there are CFO roles out there.
Zezas: Tell me about the impact on CFO employees, the CFO community at large as it relates to the shift from long-term lifelong jobs to these short-term jobs. Are they transitioning well as an industry?
Moskonas: Well, what I can say is that on balance, there are more opportunities if you look at the pool of available jobs now or within the last five years compared to twenty years ago because people tend to be specialists now. So, it has an effect in terms of the overall CFO market, but as we said before, you can expect to be in a different job probably in five years.
Zezas: So, it’s having a positive effect. It sounds like there’s more activity, more churn if you will.
Moskonas: There’s more churn.
Zezas: But, the CFO today has to be prepared for a series of roles with maybe some transition.
Moskonas: Be prepared and be prepared to communicate what you’re good at.
Zezas: Okay, that makes perfect sense. So, understand the pain of the corporation, understand how you can solve it, and be able to back it up. That makes a lot of sense. Tell me about financial executive consulting. That seems to be a lead in from what’s going on in the world today. You’ve got a lot of opportunities, you’ve got a lot of highly qualified CFOs looking for positions, and you’ve got a lot of companies looking for short-term hire. How does consulting fit into that?
Moskonas: Consulting is a great way to get your foot in the door or job eventually, but the longer term value is that every time you step into a consulting role, you’re stepping into a pool of contacts. You’re expanding your network where that wouldn’t happened before. As a CFO or any senior finance executive, your job, even though you’re in a job, is to be prepared to find your next job while you’re working.
Zezas: And, as a consultant, that next job could actually come from the company that you’re consulting for.
Moskonas: Exactly, exactly and you have the underlying value of networking with everybody else that you’ve touched within the organization.
Zezas: And is financial executive consulting becoming more prevalent or is it going to pick up speed?
Moskonas: Well, the bottom line is Andy, companies are afraid to hire on a full-time basis. They’re sitting on a pile of cash. They’re afraid to make a commitment, but they can commit to bringing in resources for mission critical projects, for capacity gap, if there’s just too much work and not enough people. And, if, for instance, the senior executive just isn’t right for particular role, they need somebody to come in that has maybe five out of the ten things that the permanent CFO needs. They’re going to have a need. So, you’re going to see more and more consulting going on over the next few years where back in 2006-2007, you probably saw more full-time hires.
Zezas: Makes perfect sense. John, we got time for one more quick question. If you had to give one point to every CFO out there, who’s in transition or will be in transition, as to how he can protect his career going forward, what would be the one thing piece of information, guideline?
Moskonas: I would really say Andy, network. Network while you’re working. You know there’s a big temptation to insulate yourself in a job and I certainly don’t fault anybody for that. You come in at seven o’clock, you don’t leave until seven-eight o’clock, and people want to go home and coach their kids’ soccer games. I know this.
Zezas: Networking is the worst. John, I’m going to cut you off right there. I want to thank everyone for joining us today. This is Andrew Zezas with John Moskonas of AR Group of Search companies, saying thank you for watching CFO Studio.
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