YESTERDAY’S CFO AGENDA was a fantastic event – albeit sobering at the same time.
A room that contained more than 100 senior FDs and CFOs, and 25 superb panelists including Alistair Darling, Shell CFO Simon Henry, Deutsche Bank UK chief economist George Buckley, should have been one that focused on how CFOs can drive their business forward.
Instead, the focus was on the myriad of permutations ahead for the UK, Europe and the rest of the world following the Brexit vote. These permutations, with their own subset of outcomes, depend on whether you focused on economic or social angles.
The upshot of a complete lack of uncertainty, fuelled to a large extent by a parliamentary power vacuum, is uncertainty.
And uncertainty, for businesses, is a killer. It depresses spending, innovation and risk-taking.
Keep on keeping on
Does that mean, then, that CFOs become rudderless? Unable to lead and steer in the setting of budgets or forecasts?
Potentially, yes. But the CFO Agenda did bring rise to an interesting topic: groupthink.
We may all be casting doom and gloom ahead, but many CFOs – when asked individually about their own business – said they would work hard to manage exposure, with some suggesting they weren’t that exposed anyway.
Fear is contagious, but CFOs might be in a position to help the ship steer forwards if they can continue to help their board understand how to navigate their market.
Clearly, a definitive decision on Brexit one way or the other will help focus minds. But the key thing is to think for yourself – and your company. Paralysis caused by fear will itself be self-prophesying. Stagnating businesses will drag the economy down.
The question is: As CFO, can you hold your nerve?
Kevin Reed is Head of Editorial at Financial Director and Accountancy Age
Find out more about the CFO Agenda here