"CFOs are carefully confident, but many appear to be holding back from investing and seeking to grow their businesses," says Tom McGrath, Americas senior vice chair of accounts for Ernst and Young LLP, offering his insights on a recent CNBC Global CFO Council poll. The council is comprised of 25 chief financial officers from a wide range of companies that are public, private and high-growth.
Always on guard against risk, he notes, the CFOs appear to be cautiously optimistic in the most recent poll. Key highlights from the survey include:
* Almost 40 percent of CFOs feel the overall economy is stable, while the remainder of those surveyed feel it is only modestly improving.
* In the previous survey in July, 4 percent of CFOs felt that the economy was showing signs of strong improvement. Now none of them do.
* Despite an improving United States macroeconomy, nearly half (48 percent) of CFOs have no plans to expand business operations in this country over the next 12 months.
* Nearly half of CFOs report no or minimal current M&A activity for their organization.
"It is understandable that a large group of CFOs remains guarded," says McGrath. "There is still a certain amount of uncertainty over many issues. There are storm clouds, and some are darker than others. But there are opportunities for CFOs to perhaps make some bold, but carefully calculated, moves. Making bold moves can really help an organization boost growth and provide a competitive advantage over the long term," he adds.