The outlook from U.S. CFOs on the financial prospects for their own companies is the brightest in years, according to a new survey.
The survey, from Financial Executives International and Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business, found that CFOs remain confident in the outlook for their own companies, with the optimism index for their companies reaching 74.01, the highest level reported in the survey since 2006.
The survey also revealed an increase in CFOs’ optimism about the global economy, which climbed to 57.69 (levels not seen since the second quarter of 2011, and up from 53.19 in February 2015) on the survey’s index. Survey respondents revealed a small decline in their optimism about the U.S. economy to 68.14 (from 70.71 in February), but this score still remains nearly four points higher than where it stood at this time last year (64.17).
“The small decline in optimism towards the U.S. economy seen in this survey could be due in part to CFOs’ mounting concerns towards several global issues impacting long-term economic conditions in our country,” explained FEI vice president of government affairs Robert Kramer. “CFOs are also seeing cyber-security as a serious global issue, with nearly half of respondents expressing concern about its long-term impact on the U.S. and the global economy. It is reassuring to see that U.S. businesses are positioning themselves to face global challenges, like cyber-security threats through a number of specific measures.”
Twenty-five percent of the survey respondents reported they experienced a cyber-attack on their IT systems within the past six months. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents said they are considering increases in their budgets to prevent cyber-attacks. Seventy percent of CFOs said they are upgrading their security software and/or encryption protections. The number of CFOs establishing off-site backup systems/plans has increased to 64 percent (up from 47 percent in February).
In addition, several other positive predictions made by CFOs support the overall conclusion that the U.S. business environment is improving, including anticipated increases in net earnings (10.47 percent) and revenue (9.15 percent) over the next 12 months.
A 67 percent majority of CFOs indicated they are planning to hire in the next six months, while 77 percent said they have not been forced to reduce headcount at their company over the last 12 months. This finding is particularly encouraging for recent graduates, as 48 percent of CFOs said they are looking for entry-level university graduates or interns. In addition, 74 percent of the poll respondents said the wage levels they are paying are on the rise compared to this time last year.
“Our most recent survey revealed a number of positive trends in terms of hiring at all levels,” said Linda Allen, professor of economics and finance at Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business. “CFOs with intent to hire over the next six months are seeking mid-career professionals (53.8 percent), entry-level university graduates or interns (48.3 percent), and experienced skilled technical workers (46.9 percent). If such expectations materialize, there may be a reduction in the overhang of long-term unemployed and underemployed, as well as absorption of the new class of graduates joining the job market.”
In terms of financial reporting, 35 percent of public company respondents said their company is affected by the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s proposal to defer the effective date of the new revenue recognition standard by one year, as it allows them more time to evaluate their existing contracts, or evaluate software to help with the transition.
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