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The CFO 411: Shifting Expectations

Blue sky with sun rays shining behind clouds

Economic expectations were put to the test this week, as the continued drumbeat of so-so indicators pointed to both a possible recession and a possible rethink of the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate hike. But the economic outlook wasn’t the only thing to shift this week: Studies show that business norms are also evolving, with more women and minorities occupying the CFO office and more financial leaders focusing on both data-driven insights and portfolio management.

4 need-to-know headlines

1. March Fed hike looking less likely

Investors have been widely anticipating an interest-rate increase in March, but that popular opinion changed this week, following a broad decline in the dollar Wednesday and an overall drop in U.S. Treasury bonds this year. The Fed increased interest rates in December for the first time in almost a decade, and at the start of 2016 the future markets put the odds of a March hike at 94%. That’s since dropped to 40%, with many fearing a U.S. recession may be unavoidable. (via Financial Times)

2. Study shows diversity progress in the CFO chair

The past 10 years have seen a steady increase in the number of women and minorities occupying the CFO office, and 2015 was no exception. Women accounted for 14% of CFOs in the Fortune 500 last year, up from about 12% in 2014 and 10% in 2013, according to a new study by the recruitment firm Spencer Stuart. Also, minorities made up 6% of last year’s CFOs, compared with 4.7% in 2014. (via

3. New favorite corporate tax haven is … the United States?

Move over, Switzerland! The United States is emerging as a leading secrecy haven for global corporations looking to skirt the tax man. The shift follows closely on the heels of new disclosure standards issued by the global policy group Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Nearly 100 countries have signed on, yet the U.S. has so far resisted the new standards. (via

4. Market woes ding pension assets

Good news for U.S. corporations: Compared with the rest of the world, national pension assets last year fared fairly well, at 121.2% relative to the nation’s GDP. Elsewhere, pension assets weren’t nearly as healthy, thanks to ongoing turmoil in global markets. Overall, pension assets in 2015 stood at 80.3% relative to GDP, a dip of 3.9 percentage points compared with the year before, according to a new study by Willis Towers Watson. (via and

The stat: 4 out of 5

That’s the number of top reasons organizations practice portfolio management that are directly related to financial performance: cost reduction, revenue growth, improved ROI, and improved development costs. Research by the Project Management Institute found that for 18% of organizations, the CFO’s office holds the reins of actively managing the company’s portfolio. (via

Sound bite of the week

“A significant number of today’s technological advancements focus on improving the availability and accessibility of actionable data, upgrading business intelligence and analytic tools, and safeguarding sensitive information. All of these trends have a common thread: data.”
Ryan Fathers, CMA and controller at Schukra of North America, on the connection between IT and finance departments (via

Sidebar: Did you know that the IT department rolls up to the CFO at 55% of companies? For more research insights from 533 global chief financial officers, check out the CFO Indicator Q4 2015 report.

Bonus sound bite in honor of Sunday’s Big Game

“Denver will win. My analysis shows their strong balance sheet, including acquired goodwill of Peyton Manning’s experience and brand awareness, will be leveraged to drive more points-flow. Carolina’s innovative new product line, featuring the Newton Superman, is a hot seller, but the operating density is just not there yet.”
Chuck Smith, vice president of FP&A at Forward Air, sharing his predictions for Super Bowl 50 along with other finance execs (via Association for Financial Professionals)

4 Top Stories + 1 Key Statistic + 1 Industry Quote = The CFO 411
The CFO 411 is our weekly news roundup that brings you top headlines, data points, and sound bites to keep you in the know. Follow our updates on LinkedIn for more finance must-reads.

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