CFOs: Optimism on the Rise, Committed to Efficiency Post-Recession
As chief financial officers emerge from the ups and downs of 2009 and shift to a new decade, they reveal a continued up-tick of optimism toward both the U.S. economy and their own companies. According to findings from the fourth quarter "CFO Outlook Survey" conducted by Financial Executives International (FEI), Florham Park, N.J. and Baruch College's Zicklin School of Business, New York, CFOs are looking up, but remain committed to utilizing some of the important lessons learned during the downturn and keeping companies streamlined. Their views on staffing are mixed. In exploring what steps companies are currently taking toward environmental responsibility, the survey uncovered varying drivers behind those actions.
Following an eight-quarter decline beginning in 2007, the CFO Optimism Index for the U.S. economy rose in the third quarter and continued that rise in the fourth, increasing from 54.20 in Q3 to 56.98 in Q4 2009. Similarly, CFOs' financial prospects for their own companies rose another three points to 67.09 over Q3's 64.10. Despite an improved overall outlook, U.S. economic growth remains top of the list of CFOs' concerns (38 percent) as the number one economic worry for 2010, and one quarter of CFOs (26 percent) cite consumer spending/demand as their top concern. Specific business challenges on CFOs' minds include competition (25 percent) and expense control (23 percent). With regard to a timeline for recovery, over one half of CFOs (58 percent) believe a U.S. economic recovery will be realized by the end of 2010. Nearly one-quarter (22 percent), however, do not believe it will occur until the first half of 2011.
"The findings of our Q4 survey demonstrate that CFOs overall closed 2009 with a much-improved sense of optimism than when it began, but they are realistic about the challenges that still lay ahead," said John Elliott, dean of the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College." CFOs are indicating that they have learned lessons from the downturn and can face the coming year looking forward to the opportunities at hand."