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Finance Professionals Enjoyed the Largest Salary Increase in 10 Years in 2021

There is no doubt that it’s a good time to be a finance professional. Salaries and benefits are increasing at a faster rate than many other departments, and the current skills gap means that there are tens of thousands of open positions desperate for professionals with experience.

To top it all off, executives are looking to advance finance employees within the company and provide them with flexible working options to retain them. Reports show that these are some of the most important categories that employees look at in order to navigate the Great Resignation and build a successful career.

2021 was a great year for finance professionals in terms of opportunities and salaries. Finance professionals gained an average 4.4% base salary increase in 2021, which is a full 1.5% higher in comparison to the previous year.


The Association for Finance Professionals (AFP) Compensation Survey was conducted in February, 2022 and is based on data from 1,910 financial professionals compiling data in relation to total compensation earned during the 2021 calendar year. In addition to the positive salary increases, other changes and challenges were highlighted in the survey:


Benefits and Bonuses

  • The increase in salary encompasses both executives and staff, with a 4.3% and 4.5% gain respectively, averaging to an overall increase of 4.4%. Benefits for finance professions of all types were abundant in 2021, with over 95% of businesses providing dental and health insurance for their employees.

  • Continuing the trend of health benefits, 58% of employers offered paid maternity and paternity leave. This is the first time since AFP began tracking paid paternity leave that new fathers were offered this benefit in the same capacity as new mothers.

  • Bonuses were another category that stood out in 2021. 69% of organizations awarded bonuses to their employees, and although the percentage is unchanged from 2020, the bonus amount was higher than previous years.

  • Executive-tier finance professionals stood out as receiving the largest annual bonuses, with an average of $68,494 per executive. This was an increase from $61,555 that was given in 2020, and averages out to 35% of their base salary.

  • Lastly, was the benefit of career advancement, in which 79% of respondents cited increased job responsibilities throughout 2021. Although there are numerous factors that influence an employee's potential for promotion, increased job responsibilities is the primary criteria for upward mobility in the workforce. Fifty-two percent of the respondents indicated their contribution to the organization’s profitability impacts their upward mobility.


Challenges


The economic challenges of 2020 and 2021 didn’t spare finance professionals, and although salaries and bonuses were raised, an abundance of challenges were highlighted in the survey.


The biggest challenge, cited by 44% of respondents, is related to the employee shortages and difficulties of the past few years- more specifically, recruiting, personnel issues, and staffing. The sheer volume of work was the second biggest challenge at 40%, which was directly followed by limited resources (39%).


While organizations had a difficult time recruiting employees, the Great Resignation was felt very strongly in finance departments. In fact, over two-thirds (68%) of respondents said that employees at their organizations resigned from their jobs in the past six months!


This wave of employee resignations didn’t come without its reasons. Dissatisfaction with compensation and benefits was cited by 51% of respondents as the primary reason for resignations, but the second largest driver of employee resignations is even more worrisome.


Almost half (47%) indicated that employees resigned due to experiencing burnout and seeking a greater work-life balance. This was echoed in a recent survey titled CFO: No Way Home in which it was found that 48% of CFOs said manual processes reduce their time spent with family and friends. The survey was conducted by leading FP&A software solution company Datarails, which looks to solve this issue by automating financial reports and helping finance teams reach their full potential without burning out.


Although financial professionals expect these resignation trends to continue in the next 12 months, companies are starting to wake up, as an encouraging 67% of respondents reported that their organizations are taking steps to curb staff attrition. Unsurprisingly, survey respondents ranked “offering a flexible work environment” as the most important action employers can take to build employee loyalty and counter staff resignations and burnout.

These statistics are not exclusive to the AFP survey. In the 2022 Hays Salary and Recruiting Trends Guide, which surveyed 3,000 UK finance and accounting employers and employees, it was found that 80% of employers in the sector say that they have experienced skills shortages in the past year. As a result, employers are trying to attract new staff with these much-needed skills by offering higher-than-expected salaries for their vacancies.


"Given the extreme struggles within our current economic environment, the increase in base salaries across all tiers of the financial profession is encouraging," said Jim Kaitz, AFP president and CEO. "As the Great Resignation continues, it is important that organizations continue listening — and responding to — the needs and professional wants of their employees."

For a comprehensive salary guide regarding the most in-demand jobs and salary ranges for this year, download The Finance Weekly’s Complete 2022 Salary Guide For Finance Professionals.