CFOs have a more favorable view of the U.S. and world economy so far this year, according to a new survey.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s 2015 CFO Outlook Pulse Survey polled 250 middle-market CFOs across the country to gauge their views on the current state of the U.S. and global economies and how their companies have performed so far in 2015. The survey found growing optimism among the CFOs. Their ratings of the U.S. economy have increased significantly since the beginning of the year, with CFOs giving the U.S. economy a score of 63, a 4 percentage-point increase in just half a year. CFOs also have a more favorable view of the global economy, with their ratings growing from 52 to 54.
Company revenues are looking healthy this year, with 72 percent of the CFOs who responded to the survey reporting their companies’ midyear revenues are either on target or have exceeded plan from 2015 projections.
According to the CFOs polled, 84 percent of their companies are driving earnings through domestic expansion, by far the most common growth strategy. After that, companies are also achieving growth by optimizing their balance sheet (cited by 40 percent of the CFOs) and investing internationally (cited by 27 percent of the respondents).
In terms of the main threats to company earnings, health care costs remain at the forefront among business concerns, cited by 38 percent of the CFOs surveyed. Other business concerns cited by the respondents included increased competition (cited by 32 percent of the CFOs polled), shortage of skilled talent (also 32 percent), regulatory issues (30 percent) and weak demand (29 percent).
Data security remains high on the agenda for CFOs, with 82 percent of U.S. CFOs saying they have a formal data security plan, and 69 percent of all CFOs surveyed saying they have increased their investment in data security. On average, according to the CFOs, U.S. companies are currently allocating 14 percent of their budgets to data security.
Ten percent of the CFOs polled said their companies have experienced a data breach, but 48 percent of them said the impact of the breach has been minimal.
Meanwhile, companies are proactively battling fraud, with 91 percent of the CFOs polled saying their companies are installing anti-virus spyware detection programs, while 90 percent are installing dedicated, actively managed firewalls. In addition, 83 percent are using malware detection software, and 70 percent have corporate fraud prevention policies in place.
The survey also found 98 percent of the CFOs polled said they spent the same or more time anticipating and managing fraud within their companies. While 55 percent report their fraud-related responsibilities have stayed the same in the past year, 43 percent feel those responsibilities have increased.
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