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CFO Musical Chairs May Be Slowing (But Don’t Sit Still)

The flurry of chief financial officers moving from company to company may finally be slowing as firms get comfortable in their own skin and increase C-suite promotions from within.

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However, there continue to be significant battles for financial talent within certain industries, and financial executives with the skills to help grow a company in a slow or stagnant economy will remain in high demand.

“I think the horrible after-effects of the financial crisis have calmed and more companies are grooming internal CFO candidates,” says Scott Simmons, managing director of executive recruiting firm Crist Kolder Associates in Downers Grove, Ill. “Now there needs to be a very specific set of circumstances to focus on external recruitment.”

According to the firm’s latest Volatility Report, issued earlier this week, CFO turnover is expected to drop for the remainder of the year as searches for external financial executive candidates plunge by double digits.

Only 31.8 percent of CFOs placed in 2014 will be recruited from outside the company, down from 42.7 percent last year, according to the report. In fact, if the current trend continues, this will mark the lowest year for external CFO recruitment since 1995.

Simmons says his firm was surprised by the projection, adding that their own recruiting efforts remain brisk.

“Our business is crazy and it seemed extraordinary that external hires are declining, but we have always counseled that it is safer to stay with an internal candidate than hire from the outside,” Simmons says. “And during stable times there doesn’t seem to be a great competition for talent.”

This is not to say that other C-suite jobs -- CEO and COO -- are not experiencing the same lack of movement. In fact, the CFO position is the only executive position with external hires expected in each industry sector during 2014, according to the survey. And particular industries are expected to hire more external CFO candidates than others, including healthcare, retail and financial services.

For those CFOs looking to make a move in a less-than-dynamic market, Simmons offers three suggestions.

1.) Do not walk out on an existing job. “You lose so much leverage when you don’t have an existing position.” 2.) Consider relocation, but don’t expect the company to pay for it. “Ten years ago a company would buy your house and take all that relocation pain away. Not anymore.” 3.) Don’t be complacent. “You can’t sit back in the environment. You need to be proactive.”