While confidence both in the U.S. economy and national leadership remains at low levels, many CFOs are taking action to protect their businesses, as 70 percent of financial executives surveyed revealed they are exploring strategies such as salary and benefits freezes and layoffs, while 58 percent have reported less confidence in President Barack Obama’s ability to deal with the financial crisis since he took office.

Some 300 CFOs responding to the 2009 first quarter "CFO Outlook Survey,” conducted jointly by Financial Executives International and Baruch College's Zicklin School of Business, also declared that they need more from their boards of directors, with four out of five expressing discontent with their current relationship with the board.

Just one-third off those polled felt that the economic stimulus package will aid the economy, while 83 percent predicted that a recovery would not begin until the first half of 2010 or even later.

Meanwhile the CFO optimism Index for economy dropped to an all-time low of 38.96 —  a 47 percent decline from its high of 73.55 recorded in 2004.

With regard to areas slated for cutbacks in 2009, hiring was first with 75 percent, trailed by capital spending at 64 percent, layoffs at 44 percent and freezes to salary and benefits at 38 percent.

 “These are undoubtedly difficult times for CFOs, but this quarter’s survey indicates we may have turned a corner in terms of business outlook,” said John Elliott, Dean of the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College. “Last quarter, CFOs reported they were undertaking greater responsibilities within their companies; this quarter they have made it clear they cannot do it alone – boards need to work in tandem with CFOs to weather the storm.”

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