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What Keep CFOs Up At Night? (A Lot)

Chief financial officers are generally sanguine about the future, but domestic issues, such as congressional action (or inaction) on tax reform, engender at least some near-term uncertainties, a study by Grant Thornton has found.

In a release Tuesday (Aug. 25), Grant Thornton said that in the latest edition of its CFO survey, the firm found some commonalities across 900 CFOs and other financial higher-ups in the United States.

For 55 percent of respondents, the key thing they worry about is uncertainty in the United States economy, which could impact the growth of their respective enterprises over the next 12 months. That concern lingers despite the fact that a majority of CFOs think the economy will be at least the same (49 percent) or get better (43 percent) through the same timeframe. Grant Thornton posits that there are factors at play other than the health of the U.S. economy that might stand as impediments to individual business growth.

According to the study, concerns tied to the above reasons have been on the upswing since earlier this year. In May 2015, according to Grant Thornton, 22 percent of the financial leaders questioned saw economic uncertainty as a “major constraint” on their ability to grow through the subsequent 12 months.

In terms of legislation, there has been frustration over the inability of Congress to push through tax break provisions that had expired through an extension. That hangs in the balance, still, as Congress reconvenes after the summer. Roughly one-third of executives have said that they have been acting in their financial roles as though the extensions will not occur. Only 9 percent act as though the extensions will most definitely occur.

Perhaps no surprise: CFOs also have security as top of mind, with roughly half concerned about the unknown risks tied to an attack. And a majority fear the potential for the effects of undetected breaches. Furthermore, 45 percent of CFOs wrestle with concerns over regulatory and compliance burdens.

Among other Grant Thornton findings: As many as 80 percent of financial executives define themselves as “averse” to riskier growth strategies.

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