CFOs seize initiative in optimistic turn

Finance leaders pursue growth while reining in costs


CFOs push ahead with optimistic outlook


Finance leaders aren’t spooked by high inflation or rising interest rates. Instead, they’re investing in technology and demand generation, even as they are focused heavily on optimizing costs. 


What’s in the report?

  • More than half (54%) of CFOs are optimistic about the U.S. economy
  • Confidence in adequacy of workforce and supply chain has risen
  • CFOs believe that they have pulled the right levers in controlling costs
  • Technology is a growing area of investment for business leaders

Optimistic CFOs seize the initiative


Finance leaders are taking a contrary approach amid economic conditions that have been largely portrayed as gloomy, according to Grant Thornton LLP’s CFO survey for the fourth quarter of 2022.


While the media has been quoting economists who are predicting a recession, the mood of CFOs participating in the survey was largely positive. The survey shows that CFOs ended last year with plans to go on offense rather than playing defense, despite the persistent inflation and seven interest rate hikes that punctuated a year of economic pain.


Respondents who were optimistic about the U.S. economy for the next six months outnumbered pessimists by more than two to one. The 54% of CFOs who reported being optimistic marked the highest percentage in the quarterly survey since 57% were optimistic in the fourth quarter of 2021 — months before runaway inflation led to rising interest rates and economic turmoil.


“In the previous quarter, we used the words ‘cautiously optimistic’,” said Sean Denham, Grant Thornton’s National Audit Growth Leader. “Over the past quarter, the stock market has held its own, inflation has decreased and unemployment rates continue to decline, so there have been reasons for optimism. Everyone has been waiting to see what the Fed does on interest rates, but the focus is on the annual and quarterly earnings reports.”


Chris Schenkenberg, Grant Thornton’s National Managing Partner for Regional Tax Business Lines, said wage pressures seem to be softening for some businesses. Meanwhile, energy prices in the U.S. haven’t yet experienced a price spike that many feared would accompany the winter weather while Russia’s war in Ukraine is affecting the energy markets.


“It leads you down a path of, if there is going to be a recession, it might be a softer landing, meaning that interest rates are now high enough to where the Fed can lower interest rates and it will be relatively short-lived,” Schenkenberg said.



Note: Figures do not add to 100% due to rounding


Line graph showing the percentage of CFOs who were optimistic and pessimistic about the U.S. economy in surveys fielded from 2021 Q3 to 2022 Q4.

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Sean Denham

Sean Denham is the Global Services Industry Leader and Office Managing Partner (OMP) for Grant Thornton’s Philadelphia office.

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