Technological Change Most Pressing Issue for 2018: Poll From Deloitte’s 21st Annual CFO Vision™
CFOs polled also say CEOs are asking them to focus most on cost reduction and revenue growth in the current business environment
NEW YORK, Dec. 20, 2017—Chief financial officers attending Deloitte’s 21st annual CFO Vision™ indicate that technological change will be the most pressing issue facing their organizations in 2018, in a poll taken from a sampling of 101 large company CFOs attending the event, held in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15–17, 2017. Thirty-nine percent of responding CFOs chose technological change as the most pressing factor for their companies in 2018, ahead of competitive dynamics at 34 percent and the regulatory and policy environment at 25 percent. Customer preferences was a distant fourth, with only two percent of CFOs indicating that as the most pressing factor for their company in the next year.
It seems technology has transformed, or will transform, almost every industry represented by our clients. CFOs are increasingly tasked with leading strategy and change within their companies, and as these results indicate, many are already familiar with both the opportunities and challenges that rapid technological change may present.
— Sanford A. Cockrell III, national managing partner, Deloitte LLP, and global leader of Deloitte’s CFO Program
Indeed, in a recent poll taken in a November Deloitte Dbriefs webcast attended by mostly accounting and finance professionals, including CFOs and senior finance executives, 26 percent of respondents felt they were least prepared for imperatives involving technology tools such as process robotics automation, visualization, and cognitive computing. This response was the top answer of 3,457 votes received, ahead of other developments such as the millennial shift in the workforce (21 percent), changing skill sets needed in finance (14 percent), and increased business expectations (10 percent), among others.
One company taking a proactive approach to tackling the challenge of rapid changes in technology is National Grid, an electricity, natural gas, and clean energy delivery company that supplies the energy for more than 20 million people throughout its networks in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Peggy Smyth, CFO, National Grid US, who was a panelist at CFO Vision, is leading finance initiatives as the company pushes its regulatory model toward greener options for customers. In a Smart Grid pilot program in Worcester, Massachusetts, National Grid has connected more than 15,000 homes and businesses to smart meters and saved the average residential customer more than $200 in a two-year span. “We’re also looking at the electrification of transportation, and piloting new programs to increase the adoption of electric vehicles. Moving toward technologies like this is good for our communities, good for the environment, and good for our business,” said Smyth.
CFOs attending Vision were also polled about what their companies’ CEOs are asking them to focus on foremost. The top answers were cost reduction and revenue growth at 33 percent each, followed by stakeholder relationships (20 percent) and capital/financing (14 percent). Deloitte’s most recent quarterly CFO Signals™ surveys have found that about 60 percent of CFOs say their companies are biased toward revenue growth over cost reduction. The 4Q 2017 CFO Signals survey, which will cover CFOs’ optimism, macroeconomic views, and own-company outlooks will be released Jan. 10, 2018.
CFO Vision was held Nov. 15-17, 2017, in Washington, D.C., with 101 CFOs from some of the largest global organizations in attendance. The number of respondents to the polling questions ranged from 44 to 51 out of the 101 CFOs attending. The agenda addressed key CFO-centric topics, including global economics, risk management, talent, capital allocation, shareholder returns, succession planning and tax policy. Attendees also heard addresses from founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs Mick Ebeling and former Commander of Air Force One Mark Tillman. They also had the opportunity to hear firsthand from congressional leaders in a special seminar on “Congress and the Presidency: What’s next?”
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