Nearly half (47%) of chief financial officers (CFOs) and finance directors said they felt more or slightly more confident about the economic prospects facing their companies in the next six months. This is a significant change from this time last year, when 84% of finance leaders were pessimistic about their companies' prospects.
The survey by Robert Half found nearly one in five (17%) of the UK's CFOs said their companies would be looking to hire permanent accounting and finance staff over the next six months. This marks an improvement from the 1% who had plans to add accounting and finance staff this time last year.
CFOs based in London were the most optimistic, with nearly a third (29%) saying they would resume hiring in the next six months. Rising workloads were cited as the primary reason for increasing personnel levels (65%), with business growth (55%) as another driver.
According to the survey, the majority of finance leaders who hope to recruit over the next six months will be filling new graduate roles (17%) and more junior positions (27%), which is good news for those about to set out on their careers.
Large (24%) and publicly-listed (30%) firms are more likely to hire new permanent staff over the next 12 months, two thirds of finance leaders believe the profession has been damaged in the past year, with CFOs saying that the public now view those employed in finance as untrustworthy (46%) or very untrustworthy (20%)
But more than two thirds (71%) of finance chiefs feel there is sufficient talent on their teams to take advantage of an eventual upturn in the economy
The index also revealed that two thirds (67%) of CFOs intend to maintain their current accounting and finance staff levels in the next six months.
Phil Sheridan, managing director of Robert Half UK said: "Our index shows that finance leaders anticipate an eventual upturn in the UK market and are planning their hiring strategies accordingly. The increase in confidence currently being felt by finance chiefs is promising for jobseekers looking for either permanent or temporary positions.
"However, our findings also show that half of CFOs are concerned about losing their top performers to other job opportunities. It is, therefore, even more important that workers feel valued by employers and are given access to training, skills development and career progression within their firms. Salary progression is also being taken seriously, with our findings showing that nearly two thirds (63%) of finance chiefs will be looking to attract talent by boosting salaries."
The demand for interim workers also remains strong, with 63% of finance directors indicating they would continue to use the same number of interims, and 17% of those questioned replying they would be increasing the number of interim workers at their company, up from the 13% of those who said the same six months ago.
The Robert Half CFO Confidence Index was compiled following a survey conducted by independent research firm Illuminus of 180 chief finance officers from across the UK, comprising small, medium and large firms, both private and publicly-listed and across all major industry sectors. The research was conducted in February 2010.