Senior finance executives are expected to provide more detailed information to corporate boards since the economic downturn, but the information is often not perceived as accurate by the executives themselves, according to a new survey.

The survey of more than 210 senior finance executives and board members by CFO Research Services and Crowe Horwath found that only 50 percent of finance executives believe the accuracy of the information provided to board members is excellent. Conversely, 76 percent of the board members surveyed rated their finance group as excellent in terms of the quality of their deliverables.

Compared with 44 percent of board respondents, only 21 percent of finance executives rate the business performance information they provide to the board as “very good.”
Approximately two thirds of each of the respondent groups agreed that boards now expect more business performance information, as well as more analysis and interpretation of that information. However, more than half of financial executive respondents cited lack of time or resources and the increasing number of requests as the greatest obstacles to responding effectively.

“Boards and finance executives need to work together to gain a mutual understanding of the possibilities for enhanced information and analysis — and the impediments to reaching that analysis,” said Crowe Horwath CEO Chuck Allen in a statement. “This can help them determine achievable plans to make substantial improvements for more effective board governance, and ultimately, better results for shareholders.”

While 74 percent of board members say they have requested more risk tolerance and exposure information from their finance departments since the economic downturn, only 13 percent of finance executives and 23 percent of board members believe the information provided is excellent. Approximately 30 percent of each group believes it could be improved.

Nearly 68 percent of board members consider business performance forecasts to be a high priority, while approximately one fifth of the respondents said this area needs improvement. Benchmarking and competitive analyses showed higher marks. Approximately 67 percent of finance executives and 63 percent of board members found the information provided excellent or adequate, while approximately one quarter of the respondents said their current reporting on this topic needs improvement. However, only 17 percent of boards of directors considered this type of information a high priority.

More than half of the board member respondents cited ongoing changes in regulatory requirements as a barrier to monitoring and responding to changes in the company’s performance.

To see the full survey results, visit www.crowehorwath.com/cfosurvey.

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