CFOs

Chief Fear Officers? CFOs are short on optimism heading into 2023, study says.

CFOs are reporting levels of pessimism not seen since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Deloitte study finds
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Look, we would love to give you nothing but cheery and bright New Year’s news, freshly sprinkled with ambitious goals and grand workout plans, but according to the Q4 signals report from Deloitte, the CFO community is a bit down in the dumps, as one might expect after the worst stock performance since 2008.

“The fourth quarter [signals] are really some of the lowest kind of what we call net optimism figures that we’ve seen in some time,” Steve Gallucci, Deloitte’s global and US CFO Program leader, told CFO Brew. “The views on the North American economy [are] relatively flat from last quarter, but still historically, over the last 12–18 months…really more pessimism.”

Appetite for risk has shrunk to levels not seen since Q2 of 2020, with 29% of CFOs reporting that now is a good time to be taking risk, down from 38% in Q3 of 2022. Why the big pivot? Gallucci said much of that stems from uncertainty among finance chiefs or a lack of consensus on whether a recession lies ahead or is currently underway.

The pessimism has led CFOs to lower their year over year expectations on revenue, earnings, dividends, capital spendings, domestic hiring, and wages. When asked if any of the results surprised him, Gallucci said, “not all that much,” saying that the past quarters’ surveys have been a mixed bag of results and that there still appears to be a lack of consensus around the whole r-word question.

There’s no lack of curiosity from CFOs on what their peers are doing, Gallucci said, and the main questions that the firm has been presented with over the past quarter were around talent strategies and ESG. Instead of ESG questions being around how exactly firms will approach reporting metrics, he said the conversation has been around how to use ESG as a “value creation opportunity”—perhaps indicating a silver lining of optimism there amid clouds gathering over the ESG movement.—KT

News built for finance pros

The latest news and insights corporate finance professionals need to know to keep up with their constantly evolving industry.