“Recommended Reading” is a resource for financial executives, chosen by financial executives. The list below features the articles that were most in demand by our readers in 2005 — original articles from CFO.com, stories drawn from the pages of CFO magazine, and articles from CFO Europe,CFO Asia, CFO Research Services, and our content partners.
What You Don’t Know about the Bankruptcy Law
It’s not just about individuals. Largely overlooked corporate provisions of the new law require companies to make quicker decisions on leases, pony up more upfront cash, and shed some of their exclusive right to file reorganization plans.
The rise and fall of Krispy Kreme is a cautionary tale of ambition, greed, and inexperience.
You’re Not CFO Material
Wondering whether you have what it takes? Here are ten signs that you’re never going to make it to the big chair.
Should FAS 133 Be ”Marked to Market”?
The discussion of accounting issues surrounding the creditworthiness of issuers may open the biggest hole in FASB’s standard on accounting for derivative instruments and hedging activities.
A to-do list of tips for neophyte finance chiefs includes learning the company’s financials inside-out, pressing the flesh, and, well, losing that to-do list.
Budgeting in the Real World
More companies are writing budgets that reflect strategy and reduce frustration.
What You Don’t Know about Sarbanes-Oxley
Snares, pitfalls, and trapdoors: Sarbanes-Oxley is full of surprises. These five top the list.
Body-Language Tactics That Sway Interviewers
Posture, eye contact, and other nonverbal communication can speak volumes about your feelings and attitudes. Here’s how to impress hiring managers with mannerisms that project confidence and enthusiasm.
IRS to Audit More S Corporations
Unlike more common C corporations, the small businesses are able to avoid double taxation. But the government wants to more closely track their compliance with the law.
The New Face of Identity Theft
As scams become more sophisticated, companies of all kinds find themselves at risk.
The Future of Outsourcing
An exclusive look inside GE’s back-office machine.
Capital Ideas: The 2005 Working Capital Survey
Despite cheap credit and surplus cash, companies still find plenty of reasons to improve operational efficiency.
The battle to replace Excel with dedicated budgeting and planning software takes an unexpected turn.
Striking a Balance
Can finance departments be cost-effective and smart at the same time?
Looking for Gaps
The latest generation of compliance software promises to do more to ease the burden of internal controls assessment.
Secrets of the M&A Masters
Revealing the paths to a successful deal.
When Do Companies Outgrow Their Spreadsheets?
There comes a time at every smaller, growing company when managers perceive a need for more sophisticated software tools than spreadsheet-dependent planning, budgeting, and forecasting.
Twenty changes that rocked your world.
How five CFOs cooked the books at HealthSouth.
How to Pick Winning Finance Execs
Opinions differ on whether a prestigious accounting degree or raw intelligence is a better indicator of future success. But there’s general agreement among corporate-finance talent scouts that passion and energy count for a great deal.
Your Finance Department Is Second-Rate
Not certain how your finance department stacks up? Here are ten markers of mediocrity.
Feeling the Pain
Are the benefits of Sarbanes-Oxley worth the cost?
Smaller than a Sarbox?
Finance executives at small public issuers contend that the current broad-brush approach to Section 404 compliance isn’t fair to their companies. But a movement is afoot to tailor the internal-controls rules to fit diminutive sizes.
The Top Spot
Why more companies are tapping their finance chiefs for CEO.
How Markets Punish Material Weaknesses
A new report examines shortcomings that lead to losses in share price; Sarbanes-Oxley requirements are understood poorly by investors, say some observers.
Building a Better Workforce
What technology can (and can’t) do to help companies optimize their most valuable asset.
Sarbox: Year 2
The second time around promises more headaches, but some best practices are emerging.
Shortcut to CFO
Stints at proving grounds like Dell, PepsiCo, and Motorola help managers speed their rise to top finance jobs at other companies.
Stuck in the SAS 70s
As Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 meets up with an obscure auditing standard, many companies are thinking hard about offshoring their business processes.
Smarter Insurance Shopping
Cheaper premiums are ripe for the picking, and increasing numbers of companies are switching insurance carriers. Here’s how savvy CFOs and risk managers can gauge whether they’re getting a fair deal.
Start with Demand
Demand-driven manufacturing is radically altering how some businesses serve customers.
Finance Is from Mars, HR Is from Venus
Can finance and human resources ever see eye to eye? They’d better.
In the Fast Lane
Companies are trading in their spreadsheets for swifter, more powerful applications.
Internal Rate of Return: A Cautionary Tale
Tempted by a project with high internal rates of return? Better check those interim cash flows again.
Sarbox and IT: The Long Haul
Many CFOs are still looking for long-term solutions to ensure that their control structure remains effective as their organizations grow and change over time.
Finance executives continue to grapple with Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley. So far, it’s unclear who’s winning.
Measure Performance with the Right Data
Acquiring and managing accurate data on working capital is the first step toward improved performance. New, custom metrics and greater transparency can demonstrate the importance of working capital management to the overall business.
Where Workers’ Compensation Goes Wrong
Padded bills, murky disclosures, and controls gaps are among the possible perils when self-insured employers outsource the management of their workers’ comp programs; ”I’m saving myself to death,” says one manager.
Capital Ideas: Back to the Future of Valuation
The inventor of a new valuation model claims to have a roadmap for value creation that includes signposts on how to set, track, and meet growth goals.
The Six Cardinal Rules of Resume Writing
Experts say put a little more vitae into your curriculum vitae.
Inside Your Banker’s Head
Companies are starting to figure out how their banks make money. Banks actually like that.
”Home-Sourcing” vs. Offshoring
It’s not all about price; allowing people to work at home ”leads to a virtuous cycle of productivity.”
Oh for the days when auditors were counselors and not pricey overseers.
Motivating the Middle
How to reward the best without alienating the rest.
Make It Automatic
To boost retirement savings, future plans may turn every step from enrollment to rollover into a ”default” choice for employees.
IT, Compliance, and Performance Management
Companies have adopted ERP applications to automate many of their transactions and business processes. What’s missing is a unified, integrated view of performance information that includes and analyzes data from ERP and other applications.
What Does Your CEO Really Know?
How much do chief executives know about company finances? We asked more than 300 CFOs to rate their boss’s finance IQ.
iPods at the Office
Cell phones, email, and instant messaging have all found a home as productive members of the business world. Will the iPod become the next apple of Corporate America’s eye?
Advice from Carly Fiorina’s Headhunter
A recruiter who helped bring Hewlett-Packard’s ex-CEO on board thinks leadership skills are more important than an executive’s compatibility with a company’s culture.
Are You the CFO Type?
For finance executives, a personality assessment can be very revealing about your preferences — and about your opportunities for growth.
The Narrowing GAAP
The convergence of foreign and domestic accounting rules could catch some U.S. companies by surprise.
Audit Fees Double Due to Sarbox
A hefty portion of the Big Four’s bonanza, according to a new study, is related to work mandated by Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404.
Who’s Minding the Shop?
Keeping an eye on Web-surfing employees.
PCAOB, SEC: 404 Costs Too High
Clearly, ”the first round of internal control audits cost too much,” says the board; ”some non-trivial costs may have been unnecessary, due to excessive, duplicative, or misfocused efforts,” states the commission.
Nearly 600 Reports of Control Weaknesses
Last month alone, 56 companies disclosed material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in internal controls, compared with just 14 companies a year earlier.
Find Out What References Are Really Saying about You
Employers, recruiters, and background-screening firms are checking out job candidates more thoroughly than ever. Be upfront with potential employers, but consider doing a background check on yourself, and be prepared to counter negative remarks.
Inventory: How Fast Is Too Fast?
A new supply-chain metric, which could help managers gauge the right speed for asset turnover, may be a compelling reason to move to activity-based costing.
Material-Weakness Reports Skyrocket
”We think it’s fair to say that most of the weaknesses disclosed in 2005 did not develop overnight,” says a newly released report.
The Ultimate Calling Plan
As phone service moves to the Internet, CFOs face a tricky cost/benefit calculation.
Avoiding Decision Traps
Cognitive biases and mental shortcuts can lead managers into costly errors of judgment.
Red Light/Green Light for Tech Spending
For finance executives, better controls on technology spending start with better controls on which projects get the go-ahead. First of a series.
The Turning Point
What options do companies have when their industries are dying?
Treasuring the Treasurer
Strategically minded treasurers are finding new ways to add value to their jobs and boost the bottom line.
Pensions Go on the Balance Sheet: FASB
In a unanimous vote, the accounting standards board decided last week to look into an overhaul of the retiree-benefit accounting system.
Across the Board
Spurred by regulatory change, directors and CFOs forge a new relationship.
Changing Fortunes: The 2004 Compensation Survey
With stock options tainted, pay packages grow more diverse — and smaller.
IT governance combines technology with discipline, but not in equal measure.
What, Where, and How Much?
New software may help companies understand the true scope and cost of IT infrastructure.
Automation and Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance
Companies that look to embed automated controls throughout their cross-enterprise business processes should enjoy the largest long-term benefits.
Are You Ready for Retirement?
For many CFOs, life after work may not be a day at the beach.
Old Dogs, New Clicks
During the past 10 years, E-commerce has changed dramatically. Is your company keeping up?
Off the Shelf: The 2004 Working Capital Survey
Low inventories drove down working capital last year. But will that continue as the economy improves?
How Kmart Grew 404 Compliance at Home
Instead of relying on internal auditors and consultants to test internal controls, the retailer put management in charge from the start.
Hidden in Plain Sight
Leasing may soon have to be justified on economic terms alone.
For Auditors’ Eyes Only
Why audit committees should ask for confidential information on the quality-control systems of their companies’ audit firms.
How to Hunt for a Headhunter
Experts and finance chiefs supply tips about paying recruiters, retaining them, and choosing between the boutiques and the big names.
Big City Blues
What’s wrong with cities, and why it matters to business.
PCAOB Chief: Some 404 Audits ‘Excessive’
McDonough foresees a “severe conversation” with accountants who engage in too much testing of their clients’ internal-controls reports.
Can You Spot the Finance Expert?
Two years after the SEC started requiring finance experts on audit committees, it’s still not clear who qualifies, or whether it really makes a difference.
Software as a Service
How far can the pay-as-you-go approach take you? Proponents say the road less traveled is about to become jammed.
Finite Insurance: Beyond the Scandals
The troubles at AIG have thrust insurance that doesn’t transfer risk into the spotlight. But used correctly, finite coverage can help finance executives to manage hard-to-quantify risks, clinch a merger deal, and even produce better-quality earnings.
This Time, It’s Strategic
Technology has streamlined the human-resources department. Can it be pushed to do more?
Do Fundamentals or Emotions Drive the Stock Market?
Emotions can drive market behavior in a few short-lived situations. But fundamentals still rule.
Less Is More
Why thick monthly reports to management are going the way of the five-year plan.
Sarbox ABCs for the Rank and File
Concerned about compliance costs, companies are training employees in the ins and outs of Sarbox internal-controls rules.
The 21st-Century Organization
Big corporations must make sweeping organizational changes to get the best from their professionals.
No Time for Strategy?
Many finance staff find they’re too caught up with commonplace chores to think about the bigger picture, at least for the moment.
The forces of globalization, technology, and economic liberalization are combining to make life harder than ever for established companies.
When Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, it didn’t worry about how much it would cost companies. Today, CFOs are totting up the compliance bill — and they don’t like what they see.
The flood of material weaknesses related to tax reflects a lack of expertise — and the evolution of an art into a science.
New Holes for Hackers
Are businesses prepared for the digital demons about to be unleashed by smart phones and PDAs?
Auction-Rate Securities: Hold That Gavel
The securities — long-term bonds that act like short-term debt — have often helped treasurers squeeze out added return on corporate cash balances. But a bevy of woes is making it tougher to embrace the cash-management tool.
Putting More ”E” in T&E
Toting up travel-and-entertainment expenses is hardly entertaining, but new technology can help.
Somebody’s Watching You
Spyware has come in from the cold to become Corporate America’s top security threat.
See It Now
New budgeting-and-planning software offers increasingly sophisticated visual aids: dashboards and scorecards.
Risks and Benefits: Health on Account
Health-savings accounts, yoked to high-deductible insurance policies, are being touted as the next big thing in cost containment. But employees might think twice before taking on so much financial risk when it comes to their health care.
Journey Without Maps
This trio of current and former CFOs took companies public in 1985. Here’s what they’ve learned since.
A Refresher Course in Workers’ Comp
A scathing audit of the workers’ compensation system in a Florida school district spotlights the need for tighter employer scrutiny of outsourcers.
‘Tis the Gift to Be Simple
Why the 80-year-old DuPont model still has fans.
How Following Orders Can Harm Your Career
Asked by her bosses to make false accounting entries, a midlevel accountant balked, then caved. Her solid career took a sudden turn in a very sorry direction.