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New Pulse Monitor for German Finance Bosses

With their ‘CFO Monitor’, the IUBH is beginning a research project that will ‘take the pulse’ of financial decision-makers at medium to large German companies twice a year.

How do German financial decision-makers see the current business situation in their companies? What strategic issues were most relevant to them over the past few months? And are managers working towards changing employer? These are questions that the CFO Monitor will be asking Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) at medium to large companies every six months. This should constitute the IUBH’s new research project’s contribution towards conjuncture prognoses in Germany: ‘financial decision-makers are often responsible for key areas such as controlling, treasury, risk management and, not least, HR,’ explain Professor Dr Silke Jütte and Professor Dr Arne Schulke of the IUBH, who initiated the CFO Monitor. ‘Their perspective has a direct impact on companies’ investments and personal development – and therefore, in an aggregated view, the German economy.’

CFO mood is an important indicator of economic development

For the first round of questions in May and June of this year, the two professors were able to acquire 250 CFOs – and thus an interesting mood barometer of Germany’s economic situation. ‘These results let us show that financial decision-makers see their biggest challenge not in current conjuncture developments, rather the shortage of skilled workers,’ summarised Schulke. ‘And despite satisfaction at work, over half could imagine leaving their job for a new one over the next few months.’

Further important results from the first CFO Monitor:

  • The atmosphere is good: Around 90% of those asked evaluated their company’s sales as ‘very good’ to ‘quite good’. When it comes to profits, this was still around 86%.
  • Expected sales and profit development: Regarding the business prospects for the coming six months, the financial bosses painted a positive picture. A total of 74% and 73% respectively are positive about expected sales and profit development. Current economic issues such as extra duties, Iran, Brexit etc. are not causing many CFOs to lose sleep.
  • Important topics: The most common new topic on CFOs’ strategic agendas are technological developments that can be bundled under the umbrella term of ‘digitisation’. HR-related issues dominated, especially under the key term ‘shortage of skilled workers’ – especially in the service sector.
  • Even when it comes to risk assessment, the shortage of skilled workers was at the forefront. ‘With the demographic development stated, we see the question of a sufficient and bureaucratically uncomplicated influx of skilled workers from abroad as an urgent area of political action,’ say Schulke and Jütte.
  • Employee satisfaction: Despite high to very high satisfaction, more than 50% of those asked could imagine changing their employer in the next twelve months. Around 8% of those asked actually intended to do so. More than half of those asked can also imagine succeeding their own boss in the next five years.
  • Estimated impact of Brexit: Regarding the expected outcome of Brexit, the most popular answer was ‘no deal’. Most CFOs expect massive negative economic consequences for the British economy in this case.

The CFO Monitor should also offer added value to the participants

Creating more transparency around the current state of the economy as well as openness for the financial decision-makers themselves – that’s how Schulke sees his new research project. ‘In my previous role as a CFO at a same-day logistics company, I always wanted more exchange with my equivalents – especially from other industries. I’m glad that this project has been able to establish what CFOs are currently dealing with, what new issues they are tackling and what expectations they have for the future.’

The first edition of the CFO Monitor, funded by partner and SME consultant Allfoye, can be downloaded at www.cfo-monitor.de and www.iubh-university.de/forschung/publikationen. The next round of questions is set for the end of the year. Jütte hopes to find even more participants by then. ‘We can use the CFO Monitor to establish important economic trends. Participating CFOs receive the survey results before publication, so have an information edge. We hope to establish a healthy quid pro quo with the CFOs: they regularly give us a few minutes of their time and are given important insights from many of their fellow CFOs in return.’

About the authors of the CFO Monitor

Professor Dr Arne Schulke is part of the team at the IUBH International University in controlling, management and aviation, after already holding a professorship at the European University of Applied Sciences (EUFH). Before his move into teaching, Schulke worked at time:matters, a Lufthansa Cargo company, for 11 years both as CFO and later as COO. time:matters is a highly specialised special speed logistics provider offering international same-day transport and customer-specific highly sensitive transport solutions.

Professor Dr Silke Jütte represents quantitative methods at the IUBH International University. After several years as Operations Manager at Deutsche Post Consult, Jütte was responsible for quantitative issues in logistics as a Project Manager and Software Developer at a Cologne consultancy. To this end, she especially dealt with matters of HR planning and network planning.

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