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CFOs Convey Cautious Outlook for 2023, as Pessimism Over Economic Conditions Prevails: Deloitte CFO Signals™ Survey 4Q 2022

NEW YORK, Dec. 14, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • The proportion of CFOs feeling pessimistic about their companies’ financial prospects increased to 41% this quarter from 37% in 3Q22.
  • More than one-third (35%) of CFOs rate the current North American economy favorably, a slight uptick from 33% in 3Q22, while a smaller proportion (29%) expect it will improve in a year.
  • Just over a quarter of CFOs (29%) believe that now is a good time to take greater risks, lagging behind last quarter’s 38% and falling far short of the two-year average of approximately 50%.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of CFOs plan to allocate or reallocate capital to new business investments next year. 
  • Nearly three-quarters (74%) of CFOs expect talent/labor costs to increase substantially in the year ahead. Meanwhile, CFOs lowered their growth expectations for revenue, which decreased to 4.2% from 6.2%, and earnings, which dropped to 2.9% from 6.4%. 
  • Looking ahead to 2023, CFOs said their top three priorities are cost management (52%), financial performance (50%), and growth (38%).

Why it matters to CFOs?

Each quarter, CFO Signals™ tracks the thinking and actions of leading CFOs representing North America's largest and most influential companies. Since 2010, the survey has provided key insights into the business environment, company priorities and expectations, finance priorities, and CFOs' priorities. Participating CFOs represent diversified, large companies, with 74% of respondents reporting revenue in excess of $1 billion. More than one-fifth are from companies with greater than $10 billion in annual revenue.

Economic outlook

CFOs’ sentiment toward current conditions fell across four of the five economic regions covered in the CFO Signals survey, with North America as the exception. More than one-third (35%) of CFOs rated North America’s current economy as “good” or “very good,” a slight increase from 33% in 3Q22. However, the proportion of CFOs expecting economic conditions in North America to improve in a year was unchanged at 29%. CFOs’ assessments of the current and future economies of Europe, China, South America, and Asia excluding China, were dour. Just 2% of CFOs view the current economy of Europe as “good” or “very good,” a decline from last quarter’s 7%. Similarly, 3% of CFOs view current economic conditions in China as “good” or “very good,” with only 19% anticipating better conditions in a year. Looking at Asia, excluding China, CFOs lowered their assessments of the current economy slightly, to 15% from last quarter’s 18%. CFOs’ views of South America’s current economy stayed flat at 7%.

Own company optimism and risk

The percentage of CFOs expressing pessimism for their companies’ financial prospects increased to 41% from 37% in the prior quarter. This figure is the highest it has been since the 2Q20 CFO Signals survey. The proportion of CFOs saying now is a good time to take greater risks fell to 29% from 3Q22’s 38%. Geopolitics and political instability stood out as CFOs’ most pressing external risk. Talent retention once again led their list of internal worries, followed by prioritization and execution.

Key operating metrics

CFOs again lowered their year-over-year growth expectations for revenue, earnings, capital spending, domestic hiring, and domestic wages. The biggest declines in growth expectations were in revenue, which decreased to 4.2% from 6.2%, and earnings, which dropped to 2.9% from 6.4%. Capital spending growth expectations fell to 4% from 4.3%, and dividends growth dropped to 3.1% from 4% last quarter. CFOs lowered their expectations for domestic hiring growth to 2.1% from 2.6% and for domestic wages/salaries to 4.6% from 4.8%.

Top priorities for 2023 and potential constraints

Looking ahead to 2023, CFOs indicated that their top-three priorities are cost management (52%), financial performance (50%), and both inorganic and organic growth (38%). Two-thirds plan to allocate or reallocate capital to new business investments, and 79% of CFOs said their organizations plan to embed more automation/digital transformation into operations. Nearly half (47%) of CFOs indicated that a downturn in the U.S. economy would constrain their companies’ strategy, while 1 in 3 CFOs noted that economic headwinds or a recession would constrain their companies’ ability to achieve their performance goals in 2023. 

Regarding talent, 41% of CFOs indicated that their organizations plan to hire more people than they let go, while 61% of CFOs noted they plan to implement digital transformation/automation to replace certain jobs previously performed by humans.

Assessment of capital markets

Fifty percent of CFOs indicated that U.S. equities were neither overvalued nor undervalued, while 20% viewed them as undervalued. This quarter, the proportion of CFOs regarding U.S. equities as overvalued remained unchanged at 30%. Just 15% of CFOs found debt financing attractive this quarter, down substantially from 85% in 1Q22 and well below the two-year average of 50%. Meanwhile, the attractiveness of equity financing dropped slightly, to 25% from 26% in the prior quarter.

Key quotes

Deloitte’s latest CFO Signals survey reveals that the challenging economic environment that persisted throughout 2022 has impacted CFOs, both in their assessments of global economies and in their planning with respect to strategy, capital, operations, and talent for 2023. Still, CFOs don’t appear to be pulling back on new business investments, introduction of new services or products, or their use of automation and digital technologies.

Steve Gallucci, national managing partner, U.S. CFO Program, Deloitte LLP, and global leader, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited

Download the findings from the Q4 2022 CFO Signals survey here.


Every quarter, Deloitte’s CFO Signals closely follows the thinking and priorities of leading CFOs who represent some of North America’s largest and most impactful organizations. This report summarizes CFOs’ opinions across four key areas: business environment, company expectations and priorities, financial priorities, and personal priorities. 

The CFO Signals survey for the fourth quarter of 2022 was conducted between Nov. 7, 2022, and Nov. 21, 2022. A total of 126 CFOs participated in this quarter’s survey. This survey seeks responses from CFOs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, and the vast majority are from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Participation is open to all industries except public sector entities.

For more information about Deloitte CFO Signals or to inquire about participating in the survey, please contact

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