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Last revision Date: July 12, 2002
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The view from here looks like a dream. High
portfolio growth, record bookings and
outstandings, and up to now, record earnings.
Time for a cigar and a place to mark the time,
the late 1990’s capped off by the year 2000.
To quote a friend from a large national
institution, "If your think it’s good now, when
things are bad it’s going to be better." He’s
right, banks will turn the deals to the ABL
departments when things change, things always
change. But, all is not well on the
employment front, we have some catching up to
do, without any more growth or pending doom.
Personally, I hope that any recession that
occurs is mild, because the talent pool in ABL
and few officers have been through a work-out
While the numbers look good for the bean
counters, the recruiters are having a very
difficult time finding someone to fill what Dr.
Seuss may have called "lots and lots of slots."
As we all know by now, there are shortages of
qualified candidates to fill the need for
auditors and account executives in most major
cities. How bad is it? The executive
recruiters can’t find anyone! Not being
one to let a simple problem go to waste, I spent
a good part of 1998 taking notes, talking with
my peers and finding out what seems to be
working. I've continued the updates herein
for 1999 and 2000.
This White paper protects the names of all
contributors and there are almost 100 people to
thank for these ideas. You know who you
are and I offer my sincerest thank you for your
intelligent, often insightful and downright
Can’t seem to find em’, then raise em’. This
is the traditional banking career model where: a
teller, credit analyst or field examiner becomes
a junior and then full fledged lender. It
takes time, we lose some along the way to
frustration, loathing and competitors.
What to do?
If ever there was an ABL position to fill,
this would be it! Simply put, "not enough to
find" and the executive recruiters have given up
on some searches.
WHY THE SHORTAGE?
If the answer to the above question could be
diagnosed, the cure would be possible, with
enough time. In reality, we have multiple
problems for account officer’s and auditors:
AO and Auditor Shortage:
Rapid portfolio growth and not enough
New ABL groups (competitors) are hiring
experienced ABL staff
Existing Banks are creating ABL groups
with niche products (i.e., healthcare,
hi-tech, riskier deals)
Factoring and Leasing companies are
expanding into ABL, healthcare
Promotion without available replacements
Defection to Competitors
Salary / Benefits at Competitors
Stressed-out and getting out
Boss is a jerk, why work for the jerk
Believe that education value of a
competitor is a better resume builder.
Constant feelings of fear from having
too much responsibility and not enough
Not enough college graduates know about
ABL career path.
Mergers: lets not forget the fallout
from consolidation, overlapping
management and staffs.
On a larger scale, we have retiring baby
boomers leaving the workforce.
Smaller towns may have less trained
talent to take from others.
AO Shortage Specific
Portable client base moves with AO to
Some lenders want to work for only
largest (resume builder) institutions
Occasional travel disrupts family life
Can’t book enough new business to stay
Lack technical skills to handle larger
deals and workouts
Not enough auditors to move into the AO
CPA firms are gobbling up accounting
students before Senior year
College grads have no clue of what ABL
is or why it’s a great career path
ABL auditor position lacks prestige of
large CPA firms
Attitude of management makes auditor
feel like second class citizen
Constant travel disrupts family life.
Pressure to fill "quota" of audits gets
old (treadmill syndrome)
No new challenges, look to move on to AO
Accounting firms are hiring ABL
examiners to fill niche service for ABL
I was speaking with a national lender from
the Northeast area and he asked "how do you find
good people that want to stay in their job?"
My initial answer (from a year of interviewing
people) was that auditor’s that stay have a high
threshold for pain and that account officer’s
that stay just think it's a sexy job.
In reality, the answer is to identify the gene
that makes good auditors and account officers.
These genes have not been identified, but as
soon as a test is available...
Again I come back to the word "strategy."
Why does your recruiting strategy fail?
Is it money, is it benefits, is it too much
travel, is it opportunity, is it reputation, is
it quality of life?
This is not the time to punt. Let’s look
at what some people are doing:
Hire College Grads and Train Them
Not a bad strategy if you have the resources
and the training programs. One of the key
weaknesses here is that your training will be
lost to competitors that tend to act like
vultures after you’ve made a substantial
investment. Account executives typically receive
6-10 weeks of bank training and then a two year
rotation through several departments, only to be
snatched up for higher salaries by competitors.
One organization was successful hiring an
"engineering economics" major from an
engineering school; there are alternatives. Yes,
training costs can be high. For account
officer's with an internal bank rotation, this
is fine if your bank has it. For auditors, it
means costly travel, double teaming, in house
Build a farm league, make them into pros
and retain them.
Different College Grads
The CPA firms are getting the best accounting
students and many of the Account Executives are
getting a Masters Degree right after
So this strategy gets you someone -- maybe.
There are other problems. First, the CPA firms
are getting all of the accounting majors.
Perhaps a twist in the strategy would help. Some
lenders are turning to smaller colleges and
finance majors that are willing to relocate to
new areas. Training is still required, but the
finance majors are every bit as bright and
talented as the accounting majors. Making
offers before senior year is another
Broaden your search scope.
As a graduate from Drexel University with a
double major in Accounting and Finance (yet
another shameless plug!), I can speak personally
on the value of hiring college interns.
Many colleges have 6 month cooperative education
programs that offer students the opportunity to
work in their areas of study. I learned
and increased my career interest more in 6
months of co-op work than in my first two years
Upon graduation, many students are offered jobs
by the people that they interned with over
several 6 month co-op cycles.
Look at and hire college interns.
Grads - The Marketing Approach
My mother still doesn't understand what I do!
College graduates have probably never heard of
asset based lending. As an industry, we
need to educate and inform the college
population of teachers and students what this
industry is all about. You heard it here
I propose that the ABL community put together
an effort to educate professors and students on
what ABL is all about. The following
general ideas could be tested:
Speak at Accounting and Finance Society
functions at colleges.
Become guest speakers in finance and
Prepare literature (handouts and
brochures) that can educate prospective
Prepare a standard presentation that
could be used by many people in the
Prepare a web based presentation
The education of students may attract more
people to the profession, through increased
awareness, participation and interest. One
ABL shop that I spoke with noted that "We went
deep into the college campus' to find recruits."
This particular ABL shop personally educates the
students through college associations, guest
lectures, etc. (Bravo!).
Since I am also in the seminar business (a
shameless plug for
Clear Choice Seminars, Inc.),
I would be happy to put together a program that
could be used by industry members for
presentation purposes. Contact me at
with your thoughts on this. Educate the
colleges and students.
Prepare the Grads - The Alternate Future
A typical college student has been focused on
graduating and paying back loans.
Potential recruits are often in the fields of
finance, accounting, economics, marketing and
management. What are their future dreams
formed upon? Probably a career path such
Public accounting (staff - senior -
supervisor - manager - partner). Sure
most leave and become a controller or a CFO.
A year 2000 study by the AICPA showed few
college student graduation candidates
willing to take time for the CPA exam, lower
CPA pay and lost MBA opportunities when
weighed against immediate income from the
Management (intern - worker - supervisor -
manager - associate - VP - president)
Sure some leave and run another company and
few make it big on stock options.
ABL is no different than the above choices.
"It's not a career, its a choice!" (sorry no
bumper stickers available). But most
graduates don't know about ABL's "psychic
income" or the career path. We all need to
sell the job where you can see the whole
company, make financing decisions in the
millions, learn how companies operate, etc?
Sure you can stay in audit or become a class-act
account officer. You can also someday
leave with tons of hands-on knowledge about
running different companies and still become a
CFO, controller or business owner.
It's not sexy, but it's colorful. Let
them see our true colors.
Steal From Your Competitors
Who said life was fair? Let them spend the
money on travel, training, bank rotations, etc.
and then throw money (and opportunity) at them.
Finding these potential targets is the largest
problem. As mentioned above, the
recruiting firms are having a hard time finding
these people too. Newspaper advertisements
are expensive and the resulting resume pile
rarely has the gem that your looking for.
What strategy do we employ to get our
competitor’s people? Have a strategy to get
the people you need.
Incentives by Day
Some lenders are doing day incentives for the
auditors. This can be done in many ways,
but here are a few examples: Quarterly pay
incentives for spending more that 25 nights per
quarter on the road. One large national
lender pays over $80.00 per day per diem for
overnight travel (excess over IRS allowed is
taxable). The income portion creates a
variable bonus based on days on the road.
This form of auditor compensation is becoming
more popular with lenders that are competing for
scarce audit resources. Implement
variable bonus pay for travel.
Like the above daily / quarterly incentive,
some institutions are offering annual bonus pay
if you stay through some time period (i.e., stay
until August and we’ll pay you $4,000.00).
The bonus potential becomes the carrot to stay.
As you may have guessed, the bonus needs to be
renewed to improve the staying power numbers.
Implement service appreciation bonus pay.
Writers note: I hate this idea because
mediocrity is not good enough, but here it goes:
If you don't counteroffer, then you're going to
end up hiring the same level of talent for more
money and more aggravation, plus recruiting
costs and time. It can be
frustrating, against your better judgment to be
cornered like this, but lots and lots of people
are doing this. It can strain your
personal ethics, but counteroffer to save time
Word of mouth is a good way to go. Some of
the lenders we talked with have raised the
referral fees from employees into a new realm of
over $2,000.00 per head. The existing $500.00
policy at most banks is simply not working.
Several of the people interviewed noted that
referrals are not easy to come by. When probed
and asked about speculating on possible reasons,
the answers included: "not enough money
incentive," "with our reputation it’s not easy
for people make recommendations," and "our
employees love it here, they can be good
recruiters." With a broad range of answers such
as this, it seems that happy employees are a
recruiting asset. Create referral
incentives that get results.
Increase the effectiveness of referrals by
having the person that made the referral work on
the orientation and some follow-up activity such
as a first quarterly review. Pay the
referral in halves, first at 90 days and then at
Get better referrals by spreading the
fee over time.
Hot jobs should command more money.
Boost referral fees for the hot jobs. Some
companies are offering up to $5,000 for the
really hot jobs. Inc. Magazine ran a
special report in the 10/98 issue on recruiting
that included a reference to a company named
i-Cube offering TV's, mountain bikes and more as
referrals increased (ahh--generation-X-appeal).
The i-Cube recruiting incentives include
housecleaning, laundry services, vacations and
if you make eight successful referrals, a Jeep
Incentives can and should be more than
Recruit from customers and clients and
vendors. Many of your associates have kids
in college, friends looking to switch jobs, etc.
You can offer them incentives too.
Let customers, friends and vendors know
you need their help.
If I could Work
When I started my professional career I
wanted public accounting experience for my
resume. When I went into ABL, I
wanted a top tier firm to add to that resume. I
checked out the organization and it was clearly
a leader. The audit manager that
interviewed me was clearly a top notch manager
too... I said, "If I could work for you, it
would benefit my career." A student of mine was
moving to a new city and wanted some leads for
jobs, I gave her 5 leads, but noted the one that
represented the best opportunity for education,
personal growth and future growth. When
you present your company to a candidate, tell
(sell) them about the "legends" of the business
that work for you, how long they have been there
and impress upon the candidates the learning
opportunity of working with the best.
Make people want to work for your people.
Get management involved in the process.
This can include a directive to have more public
events sponsored by your company and a
requirement to have everyone make 2-5 recruiting
calls per week. Forget theory, in reality
everyone has high and low time periods to switch
jobs. Frequent calls and contacts plus
public events will improve your chances of
finding people in a high need state.
Get out there, be seen, be heard.
The web has some job pages available.
FinSoft, LLC and Clear Choice Seminars, Inc.
sponsor one at
We’d be glad to list your job available, just
e-mail us at: E-Mail Us:
Definitely post a "jobs available" link on
your own home page. Get on the web.
Newsgroups have emerged with job
opportunities and references. Check out
Get on Newsgroups.
Account officer’s and especially auditors
tend to travel which leads to burnout. Sure it’s
fun when you start out, but the job requires you
to do laundry, car repairs, relationships and
everything else on the weekends...it get old
fast. Under these circumstances, some
audit managers will alternate local and
overnight travel or new business for "cookie
cutter" audits to give the stressed examiner a
break. However the personal
sacrifice of being on the road and spending the
weekends scrambling to fit in some "life" are
often not rewarded.
There is a growing trend to open regional
offices that can decrease the travel for
everyone. While the large national institutions
are getting regional by merger, the savvy small
and middle sized lenders are putting offices,
auditors and support where the action is.
Open regional offices.
Growth has advantages, but safe growth means
staffing and systems to handle the load.
Sure you can outsource some of it, but in the
long run, "insiders" are needed to maintain
quality and control certain costs. So,
stop the growth, don't book more deals and level
off for 90-180 days until the infrastructure is
ready. Slow down and don't grow
until your ready again.
Yes, radio! We've recently seen this in
several articles and can point to some local
stations (at least here in Maryland) that have
advertisements for Information Technology
professionals. Why not advertise on the
radio for "Accountants and financial analysis
looking for an exciting career with new
challenges on a daily basis?"
Advertise on the radio.
If you hire every recruiter in America you’ll
come up empty handed. One national ABL shop has
done that and the results are just not there.
More people looking does not seem to be a great
strategy, probably because salaries and the
tight market make it hard to find anyone willing
to switch for the same general benefits.
What strategy do you have for benefits and what
can you offer that the competition can’t?
Recruiters have contacts and it takes only one
bad episode with a client, weeks of travel or a
bad boss to make someone want to jump.
Have your recruiter check up on people
Lately, the HR departments at some
institutions (mostly banks) are saying no way
to the benefits and compensation for the ABL
no way attitude is understandable based on
guidelines from management, normal account
officer and internal audit salaries, and overall
budgets. However, reality gets in the way of
this comparable bank salary theory. The ABL
departments typically produce 2-3 times the net
interest rate yields of the overall bank per
asset dollar. The travel and underwriting
pressure, the large loan business development
underwriting process and the general intensity
of ABL monitoring are getting higher salaries,
paid for by the higher net interest yields.
Lobby, remind and educate executives and HR
personnel about the yield of the portfolio and
the competitive factors (many of which are
Ask questions and ask for honest answers.
Not just the people leaving, but the people that
turn you down. Adjust your pay scale if
money is a factor. Adjust all other
objections as needed.
Find out what went wrong.
Define the Career
Some professions, such as public accounting
have a defined career path from staff accountant
or Tax-1 to supervisor, to manager, to associate
to partner. Some work in audit, some in
tax some in MIS. ABL is no different.
Some stay in audit, some move on to officer
positions and some move on to regional managers
and more. It helps to know that your
career path has steps ahead. Some recruits
are looking to move-on to better things over
time and a pre-plan can be useful to get new
recruits on staff. Be sure to boast about
promoting people and drive the point home by
making introductions to promoted staff during
the interview process. Show them the
With the miracle of the law (just kidding),
it is possible to lease employees. Smaller
finance companies should consider this option to
compete with larger players. Small finance
companies could find a benefits administrator,
but a small group size would likely offer few
benefits. It is easier, less time
consuming, more cost effective and generally
more robust in features to lease employees
through a company that can offer a broader and
more impressive package. You lease
to get more of a car, why not lease yourself?
At some of the fastest growing companies (and
ABL providers), the employees work on a
management by objectives basis. Each
employee sets their own growth objectives and
goals while the corporation has standards for
existing performance. This pressure cooker
environment weeds out those that can't work for
objectives and forces the company to grow in
creative ways. Retention stays high in the
long run and thus less new hiring is needed over
time. Let the employees lead from the
Go through old resumes and get home numbers
when you interview prospects. Pull
out the old pile from time to time, even the
ones that are two years old. Call
the people, find out what they are doing and
note what new experiences they have had.
Find out about their computer skills and job
skills. Keep in touch over time, they may
have referrals for you.
Old résumé's lead to renewed contacts.
Own Recruiting Company
You can incorporate overnight for almost
nothing. Take a recruiter that has done a
great job for you and set them up in business.
They make more money, you get the cream of the
crop. This idea is feasible for medium to
Recruit from your own private firm.
Be thorough and focus on key skill sets, but
have all parties ready to do the same. It
is rare to have three interviews these days
because candidates are gone by the time you
call. Try to get it all done in one
interview by having all parties ready to talk
business and ask the key questions.
Be ready to interview with all parties first.
Since we own a software company and
specialize in building automated systems for
clients, we may have a minor biased toward
streamlining work through automation.
Back office operations can be automated with
better software, A/R aging analysis done on the
AssetReader) and better
reporting systems for management.
Field examination software (yet another
shameless plug for
field examination software), can improve
accuracy, cut down on fieldwork, reduce report
writeup time and decrease overall report
completion times. How much time does it take to
print and writeup your reports; how about
multiple examiner and multiple location exams?
By the way, new PC's don't improve speed, but
software does. We have one account that
went from 9 auditors to 6 and they still get all
of the work done...Now That's Savings!
Some lender’s are pre-auditing the deals with
updated spreads, tighter back office reporting
that can become part of the field examination
and more emphasis on planning. This lets the
examiner focus on problem areas, variances and
key issues, rather than spend field time
compiling numbers, adding credit memos and
performing basic accounting work.
Both the AO and audit staffs can benefit greatly
from reduced report size. Trends, financials,
ratios, tests and quantitative data need not
change, just reduce the writeup size, change the
reporting style to bullets and listings of key
points. With a bit of trimming and automation,
the work load can be handled with fewer staff
Automate and streamline the field
examination report process.
Do more with less. If you only knew how?
Schedule field exams in advance, reduce travel
for the account officer’s too. Develop risk
based monitoring procedures that allocate more
auditor and AO time to the problem accounts and
not all time to all accounts all of the time.
Work on ways to cut down meeting time, travel
time, report preparation time and silly wasted
steps that have been in place for years. By
freeing up time and allocating resources in a
more disciplined way, it’s possible to save
enough time to get by with the resources that
you have or maybe two new hires instead of four.
Allocate resources based on risk assessment.
Put yourself in the shoes of your competition
and the shoes of an incumbent new hire.
When they look at your organization, what do
they see? When they look at your benefits
what do they see? When they look at your office
managers, what do they see? What are
your weaknesses? Exit interviews should
include better and more direct questions about
why a person is leaving. Don't forget to
ask new hires what won them over. Fix,
remove, polish and destroy your weaknesses.
When others look in or hear about you,
it should be a complete package, a package
making others want to come in.
We should have learned this in college, but
you need to be prepared to look good.
Kill the clutter in the office, prepare
materials for the recruit and let them "see" the
company in a good light. A well prepared
summary of benefits, vacation days, company
outings, etc. can go a long way to that all
important first impression. Since you may
be recruiting from Generation-X, it can help to
dress down for some recruits. Let
your charms and benefits be seen.
Loosely defined, a "Boomerang" is a person
that leaves your organization and then comes
back. This happens when you keep in touch
with old employees that find the grass to be
tainted on the other side. These same
loyal returns can make it easy to recruit from
the former "other side." Boomerangs happen
because the former alumni members miss the
office that they helped to make so good and you
never made them feel like they left. The
consulting group Gensler
actually gives returning employees an official
company boomerang for their office wall.
Boomerangs also allow you to sell loyalty when
you recruit, by pointing to those that left, but
came back from your competitors.
Keep in touch with old employees, they are often
a loyal alumni association for your recruiting
efforts and may boomerang back.
Great Place, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name"
One of the most overlooked things is office
morale, employee satisfaction, the team.
Organizations are going to a more casual dress
code, a more relaxed office atmosphere and more
team play systems. Some people are letting
the employees bank extra vacation time for
overnight travel nights, for weekend crams to
get the job done and for personal travel time.
The new workers and the ones that jump ship
don’t always want more money, they want a fun
place to work, with people that they can get
respect from and with people that they can grow
with. Do you want people to say "sweat
shop" about you or "fun and challenging?"
Referrals are far more likely when you offer a
complete package and have a reputation that says
"people matter." Reputations like this
take time to mature and bad reputations take a
longer time to correct. Correct your office
reputation problems sooner rather than later.
Remodeling your employees office says, "I
care." Sending someone to New York with
theater tickets says "thank you" for your hard
work. People are more interested in
opportunities for life enhancement, enriching
experiences and a feeling of community at work.
The newest workers are reliving a part of the
60’s, this may be the summer of love man.
A great place to work sells itself.
Some Companies are providing dry cleaning
services, massage, gyms or fitness club
memberships, theater ticket purchases, travel
purchases, and other "hotel concierge" services
to employees. With people being so busy,
its often tough to complete personal tasks on
the weekend alone. These benefits help to
retain employees due to convenience and quality
of life factors. It may be the
workplace, but it's nice to have a concierge.
Dispose of Bad
Some companies or job positions within a company
have bad managers, bad work loads and bad
management practices. As noted above, the worker
that is heading for the Year 2000 is looking for
a place that is part of their life not a part to
dread. Sometimes pruning the bad apple
from your tree can improve the atmosphere and
the reputation of the office.
Hire and keep good apples.
Your Budget, it’s People that do the Work
Financial institutions seem to try to rely on
the old stand by of newspaper advertisements,
money for executive recruiters and other
resources to get people into asset based
lending. There is some money set aside for
company picnics, company Christmas parties and
the occasional pizza and suds bash. Some money
is spent on training and some on "retreats" to
go over corporate strategies. How much do you
spend or have you even considered spending money
on retention? There are hundreds of possible
solutions for training, incentive pay, travel
rewards, trips, team building and employee
Budget for retention, not just
The strategy is often called "golden
handcuffs." You hire great people and then pay
them more than the market. They have the pay,
the car, the benefits that make them feel
appreciated. What kind of benefits. The most
competitive packages include some or all of the
following: Signing bonus (usually in escrow and
paid over time). Good base pay, car allowances,
variable quarterly travel bonus pay or high per
diem for overnight travel, annual bonus, first
class travel, sports club dues, excess travel
bonus of time off after a certain number of
nights per quarter, recognition awards, regular
training requirements, masters degree
reimbursement, 401K matches of over 100% on
first n%, fully paid medical, tax and legal
services, reimbursement or discounts on computer
equipment, spousal travel privileges, and on and
on. Your benefits may also be better than the
accounting firms competing for auditors.
With benefits like these, it’s easy to be happy
and easier to attract talent. Make it
hard to leave.
Appreciation Rights (SAR's)
This will require an accountant and an
attorney (no jokes please). The idea is to
allow the employees to earn a piece of the
company over time. The rights are a form
of profit sharing that are valued by the CPA's
each year. Invest in loyalty by
vesting in SAR's.
Share for Relocation
In some cases a high-end position will
require a relocation of a key position to an
expensive market for real estate. To
induce the candidate to move, an equity share in
their real estate purchase can be made.
For example, 20%-25% of the purchase price of a
home could be paid in cash by the employer as
ownership. Upon sale, the company would
recoup their equity on a first out basis, plus
their share of any profit. Equity
share when real estate prices are interfering
with the talent search.
People are offering signing bonuses,
commissions and higher pay. So should you.
The tendency to be looking for cheap labor is
going to cost time and frustration. By
matching benefits, pay, commissions and the
signing bonus, you look at least as good as the
next player and may have some of the advantages
noted above. Match em' to
Lots of ABL shops and Factors are outsourcing
the field examinations, legal work, work-outs,
appraisals and benefits administration.
Outsourcing frees up office space, recruiting
expenses, benefit costs and may allow costs to
be passed directly to the Borrower.
Outsourcing can improve quality by allowing
experts to handle do what they do best.
Unfortunately, in some cases, the depth of
internal reports, corporate culture, propensity
to accept risk and other quality factors can be
lost when outsourcing. The largest
academic problem with outsourcing is that the
competition can do the same and thus real
savings and real innovation toward growth may
not be realized. On the other hand,
outsourcing can free internal resources to focus
on growth and quality management.
Outsource when is makes sense, saves
costs, but maintains quality.
A Word of
Caution for Auditors
Since this white paper is likely to be read
by workers as well as recruiters, the auditors
should consider the following. Some institutions
are offering "golden handcuffs" that will pay
travel and annual bonuses, high salaries and
other nice perks. AO slots may open up or
the audit staff may be so understaffed that
senior level examiners need to stay in that role
"a while longer than expected." In
addition, a move to an audit job with less
travel or a junior AO slot could also decrease
the dollars paid, since the travel and annual
bonus may not apply to the new position.
Golden apples can be tough, but you'll still
learn a ton in ABL.
The traditional methods of newspaper
advertisements, executive recruiters and
employee referrals are simply not enough with
this hot, growing and understaffed market in
ABL. A great workplace, benefits and
opportunities are more likely to get results.
You need image, great mentors, a reputation,
quality of life, money, benefits and luck.
You need a plan.