Monday, February 1

Accounting For Recovery: Chief Financial Officers

According to a fourth quarter survey conducted by Financial Executives International (FEI) and Baruch College's Zicklin School of Business, optimism in the economy is coming from what many would consider the least likely source: chief financial officers.

"CFOs overall closed 2009 with a much improved sense of optimism than when it began, but they are realistic about the challenges that still lay ahead," said John Elliott, dean of the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College. "CFOs are indicating that they have learned lessons from the downturn and can face the coming year looking forward to the opportunities at hand."

Highlights From The FEI/Baruch Survey.

• Net earnings expected to rise by 22 percent by the third quarter.
• Gross revenue anticipated to grow by 10 percent this year.
• Technology spending anticipated to increase by 6.1 percent.
• Inventory anticipated to increase by 2.5 percent, reversing reductions.
• Prices are expected to increase by 1.13 percent this year.

Where CFOs are more reserved is on employment. Nearly nine out of ten CFOs reported they are looking for efficiencies over new employees. Two-thirds said they would invest in technology; one-third said they planned additional restructuring.

Companies seem hesitant to hire new employes for several reasons, including cost containment (uncertainty of future costs associated with new employees); an increased emphasis on public perception (slower, more manageable growth); a shift from growth-orientation toward leadership-orientation (restructuring to serve a smaller, affluent base); and concerns over the current government administration. Sixty-four percent said the U.S. economic outlook has weakened since Obama took office.

What It Might Mean For Communication.

Another study, conducted by integrated marketing services provider Alterian, found more than 66 percent of marketing professionals would be shifting more than 20 percent of their direct marketing budgets toward social media. However, the same survey reveals most companies are still unsure of how to implement a social media program, with only 7 percent of companies making a significant effort toward multichannel customer engagement.

“2010 marks the start of the digital decade for marketing," said Alterian CEO David Eldridge. "Untargeted and irrelevant marketing techniques are now redundant and the results of this survey show many in the industry recognize this."

There are two takeaways from this post today. First, communication professionals at larger companies might invest more time expanding a dialogue with their CFOs to develop communication points that may boost employee morale. Second, while most marketing trends point to social media, it produces fewer results unless those efforts are integrated in traditional marketing and executed with customer engagement.

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