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CFO and finance leaders

Latest findings from PwC’s Pulse Survey

CFOs still investing for the future amid uncertainty

Despite a host of ongoing concerns — supply chain disruptions, rising production costs, inflation leading to lower consumer demand and recession rumblings — CFOs remain cautiously optimistic about continuing to invest. Rather than hunkering down to weather the economic storm, they’re concentrating on areas like workforce development and digital transformation initiatives designed to maximize growth and address key risks.

In our latest PwC Pulse Survey, finance executives (55%) ranked talent acquisition and retention as a more serious risk than their C-suite peers (38%). While CFOs know they face a tight labor market, they’re also acutely aware that to achieve their goals they need the right talent — talent with specialized skills to design and implement systems to support digital transformation, process automation and analytics initiatives. This could be why CFOs are less keen than other leaders to make talent-related cuts such as rescinding employment offers, eliminating signing bonuses or reducing the number of full-time employees.

CFOs focus on margin

Despite finance leaders making investments with a more critical eye, they’re not shying away from investments that will help spur growth.

53%

are reevaluating their investment strategy to focus on margin-improving projects.

Balancing margin drivers with smart investments

More than a third (35%) of CFOs consider recession a serious risk to their companies, and 71% think it’s likely that one will occur in the next 12 months — although the depth and length will likely be heavily influenced by inflationary pressures. In response, they’re scrutinizing investments to focus on margin-improving or cash optimization projects, accelerating digital transformation and taking a hard look at pricing (53%). Even so, many CFOs (41%) tell us they’re considering lowering profit outlooks for the year. 

Although finance leaders are investing with a much more critical eye, they’re not shying away from investments that help spur growth, particularly those related to workforce development and digital transformation. CFOs are aligned with other C-suite leaders on workforce policy changes like expanding permanent remote work options and implementing automation to help mitigate labor shortages.

While they’re working to reduce costs, 66% of CFOs also say they’re considering acquisitions or mergers, a growing priority this year. M&A is also seen as another way to acquire specialized talent a company lacks.

What you can do: As a finance leader, you should understand that to help fortify the business for a downturn, tempering key investments may work better than choking them off completely. Within their functions, CFOs can focus investments on developing capabilities designed to drive programs around digital transformation, advanced analytics and intelligent automation.


Scenario analysis is key for CFOs during turbulent times

Having the right tools to facilitate agile, data-driven decisions is critical.

47%

say their top priority is building predictive models and scenario analysis capabilities.

Bolstering data-driven decisions and planning

Finance leaders tell us time and again that forecasting is crucial to their success, so it’s no surprise that for many the top priority continues to be building predictive models and strengthening scenario analysis capabilities (47%). These capabilities are even more critical — and challenging — to get right in these unpredictable economic times.

Meanwhile, with heightened concerns about cyber attacks and growing demands for transparency sparked by a new law and an SEC proposal, 78% of CFOs say their organizations are revising or enhancing their ability to manage cyber risk, an area where CFOs give their organizations top marks for agility. Our survey also finds that cyber risks are a growing focus across the entire C-suite, signaling that they’re no longer seen as just a tech problem.

Against this backdrop, having the right tools to facilitate agile, data-driven decision-making will be key. More than half (53%) of finance chiefs are looking to accelerate digital transformation using data analytics, AI, automation and cloud solutions — the backbone of advanced financial tools — to help drive standardization and intelligently automate as many manual processes as possible.  

This may also help explain in part why, out of all the C-suite leaders surveyed, more CFOs listed talent issues as a top risk. You need skilled people to design, build and continuously improve tech-powered financial tools. 

What you can do: The ability to quickly pivot and adapt is increasingly critical as you guide your company in weathering unforeseen disruptions. As a finance leader, you can play an active role in driving business agility and better collaboration across functions to drive your company’s growth objectives.


CFOs add rigor to ESG reporting

CFOs have the opportunity to add rigor that moves their company toward investor-grade reporting for ESG.

40%

are establishing policies, procedures and controls for climate data collection.

ESG factors into CFO compliance concerns

Well-versed in regulatory oversight of their domain, finance leaders are understandably aware of their organizations’ enterprisewide compliance activity, including the SEC’s proposed rules on disclosing certain climate risks. In response, 42% of CFOs say they’re working to identify who in their organization is accountable for the oversight and governance of climate data.

A slightly smaller percentage (40%) say they’re establishing policies, procedures and controls for climate data collection. For some companies, this may be the first time pulling together this information. For others, it may be an opportunity to improve existing processes. Regardless of where they are on implementing ESG reporting protocols, CFOs have the opportunity to add rigor that moves their company toward investor-grade reporting for ESG information and begins to integrate their financial and non-financial reporting ecosystems. 

The Inflation Reduction Act has created credits and incentives designed to encourage companies — particularly those just beginning their decarbonization efforts — to make cleaner energy choices and perhaps generate new carbon capture technologies. These opportunities may help companies make significant progress in driving down the emissions they will be required to report should the SEC proposal become mandatory.

As more corporate leaders embrace ESG related goals, including net zero emissions and enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion, more CFOs may join the cheering section for what a broad swath of stakeholders see as a business imperative — especially if they can make a sound business case for it.

What you can do: To meet the proposed SEC disclosure requirements, it’s important to empower the right leaders to drive the effort. Consider a controllership-led approach that works closely with the sustainability, legal and risk functions — and integrates with other facets of the organization — to accelerate climate reporting.


About the survey

Our latest PwC Pulse Survey, fielded August 1 to August 5, 2022, surveyed 722 executives and board members from Fortune 1000 and private companies about the current business environment, the risks executives are facing and the impact those risks have on company strategy and growth plans. Of the respondent pool, 97 are CFOs.

Contact us

Kazi Islam

Kazi Islam

Assurance Strategy Leader, PwC US

Christopher Dimuzio

Christopher Dimuzio

Finance Transformation Principal, PwC US

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