With the asset management industry in better financial health, compensation is climbing for the right candidates, whether at the analyst level or senior executives, recruiters across the country say.

Not only dollar values of total compensation packages are picking up, some hiring perks not seen in the last few years because of the economic downturn, particularly concerning real estate costs, are being offered again to select hires. Additionally, specialization in compliance and technology is boosting compensation packages as competition has increased for qualified candidates.

"In the last couple of months I've managed to place a number of C-level positions," says Barry Emen, president of New York-based MJE Advisors. "Companies are doing what they need to do to attract the right talent- generally, for the right person, the right job and in the right location, I would say compensation increases are anywhere between 20% to 30%."

Recruiters agreed that a CFO role in a firm will generally earn a base salary of $300,000 with additional bonuses and incentives bringing total compensation to the $600,000 to $800,000 range, given the hiring firm's profitability and operating costs, and the location of the role.

In fact all positions in the financial services industry are projected to see increases in 2015 from last year, according to a report from staffing firm Robert Half.

While operations executives are likely to see percentage increases in the 2- to 3% range, according to the report, colleagues in accounting and finance will experience slightly larger bumps in compensation. Enjoying the largest increases in compensation, though, are executives in compliance and internal accounting, with average salary increases over 4%.

"Available candidates with hard-to-find skills aren't on the market long, andcompanies must act quickly to land top prospects," the report notes. "To attract and retain top performers with sought-after skills, employers are offering competitive compensation and other incentives."

RIGHT SKILLS

Emen says that has been his observation among asset managers, who are under increased scrutiny from industry regulators to ensure compliance and maintain strict data protection policies.

"Certainly compensation in the tax area is very robust, on the accounting side, and packages for chief financial officers," he says. "These are specialities that that they need. And also the chief compliance officer, that sort of experience is very difficult to find the right skill set."

That demand is reflected among firms in the Midwest as well, says April Sheets, president of St.Louis-based Sheets Associates Investment Search.

"What I've seen is increased compensation for compliance and anything related to compliance," Sheets says. "The circle around that has also increased in value. In time out of that you will grow a larger group of people. But for the moment there just isn't enough, and that does drive compensation upward."

Another role in the industry that is earning increased total compensation is credit, Sheets says. "Recently I've done a lot of high yield credit and certainly that space has experience an upswing because of demand."

Technical ability also means that candidates can choose to skip joining a large firm to pursue greater compensation as an entrepreneur or consultant, adds Amy Perrone, principal at Los Angeles-based Chelsea Partners.

"There are two different types of folks, the nine to fivers who want to be employees, and those are driven, want to prove themselves, and love challenges," Perrone says. "Those folks are likely go out create something that is theirs (rather than seek a salary.)"

EXTRAS RETURN

Competition for skilled candidates among asset managers has meant the return of some compensation package extras that withered away during the financial and economic crises in '08, Emen says, explaining the added compensation features offer help from a real estate perspective.

Among the perks: 60 days worth of housing allowances, signing bonuses or additional cash allotments for real estate within the package, house-hunting trips, and more generous relocation packages.

Some firms, he adds, are providing select candidates with 2- to 3% back on commissions when they buy or sell real estate. "I haven't seen that in a number of years," Emen says.

A number of candidates are leaving Boston-based firms, he adds. "In the past it was hard to get them to look outside that market, but they are realizing they need to move. Compensation there is not as robust as they may think."

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