As 2010 dawns, last year's rallying cry of "Don't let a good crisis go to waste" is giving way to the collective comfort of "Flat is the new growth." Both were heard at the MIT Sloan CFO Summit held in Newton, Mass., in November. The 575 attendees agreed that the CFO's job has changed the most and become more strategic in the corporation over the last decade thanks to the dot-com boom and bust, increased scrutiny and regulation, advances in information technology, globalization, the credit crunch, the financial crisis and recession. Other takeaways: liquidity is paramount, more industry standards are needed, opportunities still exist and finance departments must reorganize to be flexible and nimble. The stakes remain high, according to the three CFOs to Watch Treasury & Risk profiles in this issue: Ford's Lewis Booth, Platinum Equity's Mary Ann Sigler and Merck's Peter Kellogg. But, absent poetic license, growth has not literally been flat: GDP edged up to 2.8% in 3Q, and is predicted to hit 3% in 4Q and average that pace this year. A double-dip recession could be in the cards since the usual post-recession snapback is missing so far, and the demographic shift as aging baby-boomers exit the workforce could slow a recovery even more, say the three economists featured in T&R's Biannual Economic Outlook. Meanwhile, treasurers are looking out over the next three years, when massive amounts of bank credit will run out, and wondering what to do about it, writes Senior Contributing Editor Richard Gamble. Our two surveys confirm that the treasurer's job has been elevated to a strategic level along with the CFO's and that no one is sure whether it's okay to feel okay about the economy just yet. Uncertainty is ubiquitous.
From the December-January 2010 issue of Treasury & Risk magazine