CFOs see brighter times ahead for their companies, with 64% predicting revenues will rise in 2011, according to a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey. That confidence may also translate into more employment, with 47% of the CFOs saying their companies will hire more workers next year, up from 28% in last year's survey.
Laura Whitley, global commercial products executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, calls the 2011 hiring plans "a very positive signal that the mood and momentum for companies going forward is positive."
The finance chiefs' optimism about their own company's prospects contrasts with their skepticism about the overall economy. Just 56% of the 801 CFOs surveyed see the U.S. economy expanding in 2011, down from 66% who had predicted it would grow in 2010. And the CFOs gave the economy an average score of 47, on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 being very weak and 100 very strong. That's up from last year's reading of 44, but Whitley notes that last year's reading was the lowest in the 13 years Bank of America has been conducting the survey.
The slow pace of the economy's comeback has weighed on executives' expectations, she says. "This time last year, I think we all expected to be further along in the recovery than we are."
Asked about their financial concerns, healthcare costs headed the list, cited by 54% of CFOs, followed by revenue growth, which was cited by 44%, and cash flow, 39%. And although it didn't show up in the survey, "we're hearing from our clients that the rising cost of raw materials and commodities is emerging as a greater concern," Whitley says. She notes, though, that some of last year's biggest worries, such as credit availability and the cost of capital, didn't even make the top 5 this year.