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Middle-Market CFOs Focus on Self-Funding Growth Despite Optimism on Tax Reform, Survey

December 15, 2017, 07:09 AM
Filed Under: Economic Commentary

While progress on tax reform in Washington, D.C. is generating optimism across many segments of the nation’s business community, chief financial officers at many middle-market companies are taking a wait-and-see stance, focusing closely on self-funding programs to promote growth, according to a new Citizens Commercial Banking survey.

The bank’s inaugural national survey of 300 CFOs at companies with annual revenue from $25 million to $2 billion – key creators of jobs and drivers of U.S. economic activity – found that a majority of respondents expect continued economic improvement, with 60 percent anticipating tax policy changes that will amplify company growth. In addition, most survey participants are relying on self-funding strategies to help implement their companies’ growth strategies. Among the key findings:

  • More than 80 percent of those surveyed said a key objective for 2018 is to continue improving operational efficiencies;
  • 47 percent anticipate their companies’ expansion into new markets;
  • 46 percent expect a healthy pipeline of new company product launches over the next 12 months.

“By and large, the CFOs we surveyed are watching the prospects for tax reform closely,” said Steve Woods, head of Corporate Banking for Citizens Commercial Banking. “However, confidence in the new administration’s ability to enact its pro-business agenda appears to be mixed, and companies are continuing to focus on self-funding of growth initiatives.”

Survey respondents said their roles have been changing rapidly – a trend that is expected to accelerate. In addition to managing company financials, many middle-market CFOs are now expected to shape organizational strategies, identify new business opportunities and expand the use of technology – creating a role more akin to a “chief growth officer.” In fact, 29 percent said they spend as much time on strategy as they do on financial and operational tasks.

Additionally, survey respondents said keeping pace with technological advances, including electronic payments, real-time payments and the use of big data, will be their most critical need over the next three years.

“As the role of the middle-market CFO expands and the anticipated changes in the business landscape take hold, there will be growing demand for trusted financial advisors to help these ‘chief growth officers’ in middle-market companies to take advantage of new opportunities,” said Woods.

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