CFOs Predict More Full-Time Hires in 2015

Many cite improved economic conditions

By Aliah D. Wright Feb 10, 2015
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Chief financial officers (CFOs) anticipate growth in their sales, workforce and overall business in 2015 as a result of improving economic conditions, found poll results released by Bank of America Merrill Lynch on Feb. 4, 2015.

The economy is healthier, according to an advance estimate from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. Real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said in a news release Jan. 30, 2015, that “real GDP was bolstered by consumer spending, which grew at its fastest rate since 2006, and consumer optimism … driven by real wages beginning to rise and declining gasoline prices.”

More than 600 chief financial executives whose companies’ revenue ranges from $25 million to $2 billion were polled by Granite Research Consulting in September and October 2014 for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percent, according to a news release.

Ninety-six percent of CFOs expect to pursue one or more growth strategies this year. Nearly half plan to reinvest in their businesses through capital expenditures, the study states.

“Companies plan to ramp up for growth by hiring new employees and offering compelling benefits to attract and retain them,” the study states. “As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) takes effect, compliance costs are becoming clearer to CFOs, which makes it easier to plan for a growing employee base.”

Fifty-two percent of CFOs said they expect to hire more full-time employees this year, compared to 47 percent in 2014. However, 44 percent say they aren’t planning to alter the size of their staff, compared to 43 percent last year.

Regardless of hiring intentions, respondents are continuing to offer incentives to retain workers. Ninety-six percent said they provide health care insurance, 92 percent fund retirement programs, and 87 percent offer bonuses. More than half said they offer wellness programs (63 percent), education funding (54 percent) or flexible work hours (52 percent).

Most companies expect labor costs to rise due to ACA compliance, but by a smaller amount than in 2014.

CFO’s Role Evolves

Another interesting development is the perceived evolution of the role of the chief financial officer. Those surveyed said the role is changing from one concerned solely with the company’s financial health to one that takes a more holistic view of the organization. More than half (52 percent) reported that they are spending more time on strategic issues; they spend two-thirds of their time on tactical activities and one-third on strategic activities.

CFOs reported spending most of their time on the following specific strategies:

  • Technological advances (61 percent).
  • Risk management (60 percent).
  • Data management (59 percent).
  • Human resources issues (49 percent).
  • Communications strategies (40 percent).

“Results from the survey confirm what we have seen with our clients,” said Alastair Borthwick, head of Global Commercial Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “CFOs expect to dedicate more time to activities aligned with growing and protecting their companies. From sales and risk management to health care costs and employee retention programs, they are leveraging their broad base of knowledge to influence decisions across their company.”

You can read more about the CFO study here.

​Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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