CPAs Emit Faint Glimmer of Hope

A recent survey of CFOs and controllers shows a slight rise in their hope that their business will expand in the next 12 months.
Sarah JohnsonNovember 18, 2009

The optimism of high-level accountants, including CFOs, has been inching up. Although perhaps centimeters would offer a more appropriate measurement of how they’ve changed their outlook compared with the first half of the year.

Some financial leaders are seeing signs of revenue and profit growth — but in tiny amounts, according to the results of a survey released this week. A little less than half of them predict their company will expand — by spending more money or from realizing higher profits and sales — within the next year. Only 42% of CPAs reported such an outlook last quarter, and now 45% are feeling that way, according to a survey conducted online between October 21 and November 9.

The latest report comes from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which conducts the quarterly survey with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The results track broadly with those of CFO’s own recent quarterly business outlook surveys of finance chiefs; one is scheduled for next month.

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For the AICPA survey of 1,201 CPAs — which included CFOs and controllers, most of whom work at privately held companies — the trade association showed that finance leaders’ attitude toward the financial well-being of their company and the overall U.S. economy has stabilized in comparison with the earlier months of this year, when they weren’t as hopeful about the future.

Still, the pessimistic finance executives outnumber the optimists. CPAs continue to worry about unemployment rates, government spending, and lack of consumer spending, the AICPA study concludes, noting that CFOs and controllers are seeing only small signs of improvement and expansion.

The majority — 61% — believe the economy won’t begin to improve until the latter half of next year. And 69% predict the recovery will be slow. “People are proceeding very cautiously,” Carol Scott, the AICPA vice president for business, industry, and government, told “There is some increased optimism for expansion, but it’s small.”

The AICPA’s latest survey reveals that many finance executives are expecting their company to show growth within the next year, but fewer than one-third of respondents expect to allocate more dollars than last year on advertising and marketing, IT, R&D, capital, or staff development. The same number predicts their company will decrease spending in those areas.


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