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Stanton Chase CFO Survey makes astonishing revelations as companies learn crisis management

New Delhi l 9th March, 2021: The year 2020 proved to be one of the most challenging years as CFOs reeled under immense pressure during the protracted downturn, according to the CFO survey  “Trial By Fire: How CFOs Are Stepping Up Amid The Crisis” by executive search firm Stanton Chase.

Conducted with the help of over 250 CFOs from around the globe, the in-depth survey was based on their expanded role and increased focus on strategy, technology, and human capital as the world witnessed a whirlwind of change due to COVID-19. Over the past 12months, their moods have shifted from optimistic expectations of growth and profitability to uncertainty and crisis management. To mitigate the risks, CFOs around the world had to step up to the forefront.

Based on the findings, more than 2/3 of CFOs reported noting a decline within their industry in 2020 compared to 2019. Only 41% of CFOs were prepared for the long-term and financial impact of the pandemic while 40 percent were uncertain and the remaining 19 were not prepared at all. The main reason for this was shift in strategic properties: short term survival vs long term growth followed by financial constraints/cash flow, lack of human capital resources and inadequate contingency and/or business continuity plans.

About 86% of the CFOs cited that adapting existing business model to thrive within future economy should be the priority for the next 5 years. For the same, 58% indicated investment in emerging technologies and systems and 54% stated talent management strategies and practices including recruitment, retention and succession planning. About 36% pointed towards supply chain redesign and modernization while 28% believed in environmental sustainability and social responsibility as the future priority.

Commenting on the same, Amit Agarwal, APAC Leader CFO Practice, Stanton Chase said, “The role of CFOs and their priorities have changed over the past 12 months. The unprecedented 2020 highlighted some additional responsibilities assumed by CFOs, and in their role as the corporate nerve center they cited the need to focus on managing costs and liquidity, supporting strategic changes, leadership, and management – all while maintaining a focus on communication with key stakeholders and providing a sense of stability and calm. The survey is intended to help companies navigate through this crisis after a careful analysis of the CFO Survey.”

Technology has helped CFOs in hiring and employee management. They are increasingly acknowledging the importance of developing and attracting talent with the requisite technology skills, a trend consistent with Stanton Chase’s past survey outcomes. Half of the CFO respondents reported headcount reduction and efficiencies as the primary benefits of technology, and almost two-thirds (61%) said technology had helped them shift talent and skills requirements. Therefore, technology is a clear priority for CFOs with over 40% of them suggesting that technology was invaluable in the shift to remote work triggered by the pandemic.

When quizzed about the priorities for 2021, 63% indicated towards developing and executing company strategy followed by organizational restructuring and cost reduction and identifying new business and investment opportunities. This points to the CFO’s role in juggling priorities, balancing their role in long-term strategy and growth with the immediate need of business sustainability.

Here is what is considered the biggest risk in various organizations this year: The ongoing financial and business impact of the global pandemic and the uncertainly/adverse economic environment beyond the threat of COVID-19. While 55% said they were concerned about financial constraints and cash flow, 43% listed talent shortage, gaps, and retention as one of the biggest risks for the coming year.

Based on the survey, Stanton Chase recommends CFOs to: Make digitization a priority, invest in emerging tech systems, innovate to outpace disruption, balance long-term strategy with crisis response, double-down on talent management strategies and practices and finally embrace your expanded role.