Despite an unpredictable economic and geopolitical climate, executives remain confident in pursuit of their set goals in 2023. Finance leaders still expect their companies to perform during economic downturn, and some even expect to grow their companies regardless of what takes place.
According to the Controllers Council 2023 Controller/CFO sentiment study, surveyors found less than a fifth (17%) of finance leaders believe they will do worse in 2023, regardless of the economic situation. In the study of a mix of nearly 300 CFOs and other financial leaders, data suggests that, although confidence among the finance team is high for many companies, it doesn’t come without some serious preparation and strategic planning.
Finance and accounting staffing, where talent issues have been looming, have the lowest reported growth trajectory (26%), but the highest rate of expected stability going into 2023. As the accounting shortage continues to hamper both growth and functionality, leadership’s focus on retention is evident. Over two-thirds (67%) of respondents said they believe headcounts in the finance and accounting departments will remain constant in 2023.
Compared to the overall confidence in organizational headcount remaining the same or growing this year (39%), accounting teams have some of the highest job security in their organizations. Results indicate finance and accounting jobs are safe from efforts to trim headcounts.
“The study findings show that small and medium-sized businesses are more optimistic in outlook than perhaps they get credit for and are driving positive economic achievements despite difficult external environments,” says Mark Floisand, executive vice president of global product marketing for Sage, who partnered with the Controllers Council for the study. “Businesses are investing in technology that supports talent challenges including hybrid work environments, staff retention, and productivity — especially in their accounting teams.”
Aside from finance teams, other groups such as supply chain, legal, and procurement show the slowest potential for increased headcounts, all scoring less than 10% in response rates for areas projected for increased hiring plans. With modern CFOs embracing beneficial elements of co-sourcing or outsourcing work when available, metrics in this area hint towards that trend.
Finance teams are attempting to counter potential recession by trimming increases in spending. Although some felt unprepared in late October of last year, and other CFOs embraced double-digit spending increases just last month, many finance teams indicated they will constrain spending in order to counter a possible recession. Eighty percent of respondents told surveyors they would maintain or reduce their spending this year, with less than a fifth (18%) planning to increase spending in 2023.
Respondents reported a desire to increase spending on cybersecurity more than any other offered element of technology. Forty-three percent said they would increase spending to protect data, alongside over a third (36%) who said they would increase technology around accounting and finance back-office operations.
As companies further digital acceleration by moving their books and data into cloud-based storage, the protection of data is pivotal to not only the integrity of the company, but its ability to operate. Despite a desire to spend less, technology isn’t an area in which financial leaders are looking to trim budgets. No more than 2% of any CFOs reported a desire to decrease spending on any type of technology.