Polling of large company CFOs also reveals cautious optimism on company prospects and planning for impacts of generational workforce trends.
NEW YORK, - Chief financial officers believe the polarized political climate observed from both elected officials and the public is real and lasting and continue to express little hope for progress in Washington, D.C., according to polling data obtained from large company CFOs attending Deloitte's 19th annual CFO Vision conference.
When asked about their views on the political climate today, a strong majority (83 percent) of CFOs polled said that the polarization observed in both elected officials and the general public is authentic and long-lasting. Almost as many, 81 percent, did not believe the recent election of Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House would mark the beginning of greater productivity in Congress, with 61 percent of those respondents agreeing the problem is more systemic than can be addressed by the election of a new House Speaker.
Attending CFOs were also polled on what external event would have the biggest impact on their companies in 2016. The number one answer was interest rate hikes (44 percent) followed by exchange rate movements (29 percent). The other three options – China's economic slowdown, oil prices and geopolitical risks – all tied for third place at 9 percent each.
"CFOs we polled last year after the mid-term elections were pessimistic about progress in Washington, D.C., and this year they continue to express doubts about Congressional productivity. A substantial majority of respondents believe the polarization we have seen from elected officials is here to stay," said Sanford A. Cockrell III, national managing partner, Deloitte LLP and global leader of Deloitte's CFO Program. "Beyond Congress, with the Federal Reserve's recent decision to raise the federal funds rate, CFOs are concerned about the effects of interest hikes on their companies."
Compared with the three months prior, 45 percent of CFOs polled at the CFO Vision conference expressed rising optimism about the financial prospects for their own companies, while 24 percent thought their company prospects were somewhat or significantly worse. The net optimism of +21 represents a rise from the most recent "Deloitte CFO Signals™" survey for 3Q 2015 released on Sept. 29, when net optimism came in at +14. CFOs will next weigh in on the financial prospects for their companies in the 4Q 2015 CFO Signals survey, the results of which will be released publicly on January 12, 2016.
Polling from the Deloitte CFO Vision conference also found that talent remains a priority for CFOs. The top two generational trends CFOs say they have prepared the most for are the pending retirement of baby boomers and different working styles of millennials (30 percent each).
The conference, held Nov. 11-13 in the District of Columbia, was attended by 82 CFOs from some of America's largest organizations, addressed key CFO-centric topics, including the outlook for the U.S. and global economies, leadership, capital markets, finance talent, regulatory updates, global economics and shareholder activism. Conference attendees also heard an address from Stanley McChrystal, former commander, U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and co-founder and leader of McChrystal Group, and attended a panel featuring 2015 Women's World Cup champions Jill Ellis, Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach.