Optimistic Washington-Area CFOs Share Plans for Cash Deployment at Darden Event

Sixty-one percent of chief financial officers from leading companies in the Washington, D.C. region are optimistic about the economy, compared to 54 percent just five months ago.

This takeaway emerged from the 11th Strategic CFO Roundtable, held last month at the offices of Sands Capital Management in Arlington, where CFOs gathered to discuss, debate and share best practices for enhancing the strategic role of the CFO. In addition to evaluating the current economy, the CFOs discussed their approach to “Cash Strategies: The When/How/Why of Deploying Capital.”

In 2009, Kenneth M. Eades, Paul Tudor Jones Research Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and Jane-Scott Cantus, principal member of ILEX Leadership Associates LLC., established the Strategic CFO Roundtable. In 2013, the roundtable was adopted as an important initiative of the newly launched Darden Institute for Business in Society – envisioned as a global catalyst and convener of thought, information and action at the interface of business and society that promotes the development of leaders to positively impact society through their roles in business.

“The opportunity to engage with top C-suite executives, facilitated by top business school faculty, and to focus on executives’ top-of-mind issues provides unique value to participants,” Eades said. “By working with IBiS, the Strategic CFO Roundtable will be able to focus more on strategy and the impact of their companies in society.”

In the current business environment, the issue of cash management – the assessment of a company’s cash reserves and how they may be deployed – is a key consideration for CFOs because of its many impacts on achieving overall corporate strategy.

The gathering shed light on new avenues for research and opportunities to improve the ability of CFOs and organizations to take action based on their companies’ financial outlooks. Those present were optimistic about the economy and took issue with the popular impression that companies have a strategy of “hoarding cash.” Sentiments from the CFOs in attendance were that their companies are growing and investing.

More information is available in the report “Views from the C-Suite.”

The Roundtable members expressed broad insights via an accompanying economic survey. The most recent survey showed a noted increase in the optimism about the overall economic recovery.

“Since the Roundtable started meeting, the members consistently have been more optimistic about the economy than the national survey participants,” said Cantus, who recently was appointed a Darden IBiS Fellow. “That said, they continue to believe that full economic recovery and job growth will take at least 36 months.”

Participating CFOs represented leading companies across industries such as financial and professional services, media, retailers and technology. The broadened Strategic CFO Roundtable charter will now include discussion of the role of the strategic CFO to assert influence in the C-Suite, in the boardroom and on corporate strategy, as well as the impact of financial and corporate strategies on the workforce, shareholders, the national economy and society as a whole.

Past dialogues have explored the board-CEO-CFO dynamic, the impact of regulatory and political trends on financial and corporate strategy, the expanding definition of enterprise risk management and effectively retaining and recruiting talent in economically challenging times.

The next quarterly Strategic CFO Roundtable will convene in September.

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Matt Charles

University Deputy Spokesperson Office of University Communications