What a difference a year did not make in the global economy. This static state was noted at the opening keynote panel at the annual MIT Sloan CFO Summit. CFO Bruce Besanko of OfficeMax says he's the Chief Skeptic Officer, "making sure business plans have good business cases behind them, but there's a fine line between a skeptic and a cynic and it's important to know the difference." One of his roles, he says, is "to speak truth to power, namely the CEO, but only if the CEO wants to hear it." CFO Lynn Good of Duke Energy says that to be a a good strategic partner, a CFO should stay close to the CEO to respond to percolating ideas before they crystallize. CFO John Martin of Time Warner says he spends most of his time communicating and encouraging operating groups to listen to each other. "Transparency is key." he says.

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Treasury & Risk's three CFOs to Watch for 2012, recognized for their steadfast determination and bold moves, agree. Kathy Willard helped create the biggest entertainment company on the planet, Live Nation. Hans Peter Ring brought aircraft manufacturer and defense company EADS through the financial crisis with flying colors, and Joe Kaeser shepherded fundamental change and financial innovation at electronics and engineering giant Siemens after a major bribery scandal. Meanwhile, T&R asked three economists for their views on what's ahead in 2012. Our readers forecast a year clouded with uncertainty, with a slight chance of growth—again.

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