Survey: CFOs Look For The Silver Lining

Despite ongoing challenges, CFOs are beginning to feel a little more upbeat according to the latest CFO Survey from Chicago-based IPA 100 firm Grant Thornton. Of the 246 CFOs surveyed for the third-quarter edition of the poll, 45% said they are optimistic about the outlook for the U.S. economy over the next six months – up from 39% in the previous survey, but still far below the 69% recorded a year ago.

Among the reasons their optimism remains muted are continued challenges in attracting and retaining the right talent, which 58% of respondents expect to continue. Even amid this talent drought, however, the top area cited by CFOs for potential cost cuts was human capital expenses related to employee headcount and compensation, with 43% of survey participants saying their organization is looking at this area for cost cuts. Meanwhile, nearly one-third (32%) of CFOs said they could potentially introduce layoffs or workforce reductions in the next six months.

“While demand for middle- and lower-income jobs is still very strong, higher-income workers are at greatest risk of recessionary layoffs,” says Enzo Santilli, national MP for transformation at Grant Thornton. “We are already seeing this with the technology and financial sectors trimming their workforce. Some are calling this effect the ‘richcession.’”

Among the other key findings in this edition of the survey:

  • Seventy-one percent of CFOs say the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is waning, and they believe household wealth will continue to drive demand.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of CFOs predict net profit growth at their organizations over the next 12 months, while 42% are expecting growth of 6% or higher.
  • Cost optimization overtook cybersecurity as the prevailing area of concern for CFOs in this survey, with 58% of respondents listing the former among their top three areas of concern for the next six months.


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