CFOs more optimistic about economic outlook in 2024: survey

Report also looks at top concerns among North American executives

CFOs more optimistic about economic outlook in 2024: survey

Employers in North America are far more positive about their outlook this year, according to a recent report from Deloitte.

Overall, 59 per cent of CFOs are optimistic about the current economy — up from 47 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2023.

And 54 per cent of CFOs expect economic conditions in North America to improve — up from 37 per cent.

The percentage of CFOs expressing optimism about their companies' financial prospects also increased to 42 per cent from 38 per cent in the prior quarter, while those expressing pessimism dropped to 11 per cent from 27 per cent.

Two in three (67 per cent) employers are optimistic about the economic outlook today, 65 per cent have the same sentiment for the next 12 months and 73 per cent for the next five years, reported ATB Financial back in November 2023.

Top concerns for North American executives

Still, there are concerns for employers, finds Deloitte’s of 116 CFOs conducted between Feb. 5, 2024, and Feb. 20, 2024.

Internally, talent is their top concern, followed by execution and efficiency. 

"Talent continues to bubble to the top of these conversations – from both a concern and an opportunity perspective. This quarter's report reveals CFOs' recognition of the importance of digital fluency both in the enterprise and in their own finance organization – although the pace of adoption may vary,” says Steve Gallucci, national managing partner, U.S. CFO Program, Deloitte.

“Longer term, it appears that digital skills will likely become increasingly integrated into the finance team's toolkit, and into CFOs' suite of responsibilities."

A few CFOs also cite cyberattacks, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence among their most worrisome internal risks. 

Externally, concerns over geopolitics and macroeconomics ranked top of mind for CFOs, followed by the political environment.

How will employers use GenAI?

Slightly less than half (44 per cent) of CFOs say that GenAI has a minimal or moderate impact on their current finance talent models.

However, 93 per cent say bringing talent with GenAI skills into finance over the next two years is important to varying degrees: 27 per cent say it is very important or extremely important and 33 per cent say it is moderately important.

CFOs say that the top five functions their enterprise is exploring for the adoption of GenAI are:

  • IT (64 per cent)
  • business operations (54 per cent)
  • customer/client services (50 per cent)
  • finance (49 per cent)
  • sales and marketing (38 per cent)

However, CFOs cite GenAI technical skills (65 per cent), GenAI fluency (53 per cent) and the risk of adoption (30 per cent) as the top three most-cited concerns in enabling finance teams to use the technology.

"We are seeing GenAI continue to rise on the agenda of CFOs as they explore ways for this innovative technology to augment value for their organization,” says Jason Girzadas, US CEO, Deloitte.

“CFOs are at the forefront to guide strategic investments that will upskill both their finance function and the organization at large and recognize that achieving success in today's business landscape will require digital fluency across all functions of the organization."

If deployed correctly, GenAI could help reverse a decades-long decline in productivity and add almost two per cent to Canada’s GDP, according to previous research from The Conference Board of Canada in partnership with MaRS Discovery District.

How employers can see success with GenAI

Here’s how employers can succeed with the use of GenAI, according to a Harvard Business Review article from Paul Leonardi, Duca Family professor of technology management at the University of California, Santa Barbara:

  • Trust employees to experiment.
  • Create conditions for learning and incentivize helping.
  • Figure out how to forecast for head count and how to manage recruiting and promotion in a world where jobs are dynamic rather than static.
  • Create the conditions that enable their employees to adapt in the face of changing technologies.

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