Deloitte Poll: CFOs Anticipate Slow Global Economic Growth and Little Change for US Trade

Chief financial officers attending Deloitte’s 20th annual CFO Vision anticipate slow global economic growth and somewhat less — or no significant change to — international trade for the U.S., according to polling data obtained from a sampling of 105 large company CFOs attending the event.

Seventy-one percent of polled CFOs say they expect slow global economic growth over the next four years, while 11 percent expect moderate to strong growth, 10 percent no growth and 8 percent a slight recession. The results are less definitive related to CFOs’ expectations for U.S. international trade. Thirty-one percent say they expect somewhat less international trade, while 24 percent expect slightly more, and 43 percent expect no significant change. Only 2 percent expect substantially less international trade. No CFOs expect either a “moderate or strong global recession” or “substantially more” international trade.

Attending CFOs were also polled about President-elect Trump’s proposed tax plan. Forty-five percent say it would be “good for my company and good for the country,” followed by 26 percent who say it would be “good for my company and bad for the country” — resulting in a combined 71 percent who believe it would be good for their companies regardless of the outcome for the country. Six percent say it would be bad for both their companies and the country, and 4 percent say it would be bad for their company but good for the country. Nineteen percent are either not sure or believe it is too early to tell.

The most recent “Deloitte CFO Signals™” survey for the third quarter of 2016, released Oct. 3, 2016, found nearly two-thirds of 122 surveyed CFOs said corporate tax policy was a top three priority for postelection policy clarity, the top answer. The 4Q 2016 CFO Signals survey, which will cover CFOs’ views on optimism, macroeconomic and own-company outlooks, will be released Jan. 5, 2017.

“The CFOs we polled last year expressed their belief that the polarization of the political climate in Washington was lasting and authentic. After a tumultuous election season, CFOs we polled this year appear to be taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to global economic growth, trade, and the implications of expected tax policy for their companies,” said Sanford A. Cockrell III, national managing partner, Deloitte LLP and global leader of Deloitte’s CFO Program. “It will be fascinating to see how CFOs’ outlooks about their companies’ financial prospects change in the next year as the new administration takes office.”

CFOs were also polled on additional questions related to innovation, talent and tax policy:

  • When asked to select all areas where their companies are experiencing significant talent shortages, 52 percent of respondents say information technologists, including data scientists and analysts and cybersecurity specialists, are in short supply. Innovators, including engineers, designers and R&D leaders, and project/program leaders like project managers, decision facilitators and drivers of initiatives, came in next at 30 percent each, followed by executives at 20 percent and operations experts at 18 percent.

  • When asked to select all areas that are important for their companies to innovate, 44 percent chose the category of product and/or service design and scope, followed by marketing, delivery, and distribution channels at 37 percent, and fundamental business models/strategy and pricing/cost structures at 32 percent each.

  • Sixty-eight percent of responding CFOs say they need more information or aren’t sure if the border adjustable cash-flow tax system envisioned by House Republicans would have positive or negative effects on their companies, while 19 percent say it would likely be very good for their companies, and 13 percent say it would likely be very bad.

CFO Vision was held Nov. 16-18, 2016, in the District of Columbia, with 105 CFOs from some of America’s largest organizations in attendance. Respondents to the polling questions ranged from 50-82 out of the 105 CFOs attending the event. The agenda addressed key CFO-centric topics, including leadership, disruptive innovation, risk management, capital markets, finance talent, global economics, and tax policy. Attendees also heard addresses from award-winning presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; Kevin Kallaugher, political cartoonist for The Economist; and had the opportunity to hear firsthand from Congressional leaders in a special seminar on “Congress and the Presidency: What’s next?”

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