2018 Market Update: Finance & Business Operations

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Demand for finance and business operations specialists remained high in 2017. In particular, many startups sought General Managers and Heads of Operations to manage the P&L, evaluate M&A possibilities, provide insightful product and marketing feedback, as well as help develop talent within the team.

On the finance and accounting side, hiring managers faced a shortage of CPA qualified accounting managers and controllers with audit backgrounds, especially if they also expected the candidate to have prior startup experience as well. This trend is likely to persist in 2018, especially as we expect more senior level accounting manager and controller roles to open as later-stage startups look to IPO.

Key hiring areas/skills in demand:

Startups in the robotics, artificial intelligence, SaaS, machine learning, security, and autonomous vehicle sectors have all been extremely active in hiring.

When hiring business operations candidates, employers are keen to secure professionals with an economics focused undergraduate degree, before then graduating from a tier one business school. Candidates with top-tier management consulting firm experience also remain in high demand, especially when this is combined with experience helping startup businesses successfully scale.

Candidate market:

Companies that are mission-driven and have a strong social impact were often preferred by candidates seeking new opportunities. Furthermore, employers focused more than ever to creating a strong employment brand in order to demonstrate the importance they place on developing and retaining their staff.

Opportunities for training and development were also priorities for job seekers, with many looking for employers who can offer clear and structured career progression. Many candidates also expressed a clear preference for employers who offer flexible working arrangements, especially the ability to work remotely.

As a result of such competition for talent, employers need to manage a fast and efficient hiring process. By engaging all relevant stakeholders, hiring managers can have a clear profile they are looking for in a new hire, and ensure that they can quickly move to make an offer to promising candidates.

In order to maximize their ability to hire the best available talent, employers should also consider engaging with well-connected recruiters who have established talent pools of passively job-seeking candidates.


Salaries will increase in 2018 as pressure on talent pools mounts. Controllers and accounting managers in particular will see remuneration increase, as demand for their skills increasingly outstrips supply. Accounting professionals will also be in a position to command generous salary increases, as will General Managers and VPs of operations.

As in previous years, startups offering high calibre candidates significant equity can help them to remain competitive when looking to secure talent, especially as they are typically unable to offer salaries at the same level as larger companies.

For more information on how Robert Walters can assist you with your job search, please get in touch with a consultant.

E:  sanfrancisco@robertwalters.co  |  T: 415 549 2000

E:  newyork@robertwalters.com  |  T: 212 704 9900

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