CFOs urge Trump to curb Twitter outbursts - survey

Chief financial officers in the United States are concerned about how President Donald Trump's off-the-cuff Twitter posts and public comments affect business, a new survey finds.

Results also show that CFOs are feeling the most confident about economic growth than they've been in more than a dozen years, and they strongly support several of the president's initiatives.

These findings and detailed analysis of tax and economic reforms are from the Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook. The survey has been conducted for 84 consecutive quarters and spans the globe, making it the world's longest-running and most comprehensive research on senior finance executives. This quarter, nearly 900 CFOs responded to the survey.

Two-thirds of CFOs said it would be better if the president stuck with prepared remarks in public and stopped using Twitter.

"CFOs are very clear," said John Graham, a finance professor at Duke's Fuqua School of Business and director of the survey. "They don't like the fluctuations and uncertainty that result from how President Trump communicates to the public, but they say many of his ideas will be good for business, even some of the more controversial ones."

The survey asked CFOs what advice they would give President Trump for the good of the business community.

  • 67 percent said the president should stop using Twitter;
  • 70 percent said he should stick to prepared remarks during speeches;
  • 85 percent oppose reducing H1-B visas for highly skilled workers;
  • 64 percent are against building a wall along the Mexican border;
  • 68 percent favour retaining the current leadership at the Federal Reserve Bank;
  • 58 percent support the president's plan to restrict immigration from specific countries.

African CFOs also weighed in on challenges on the continent. Two-thirds of African CFOs say corruption is a significant problem that must be addressed to improve the business climate, and more than half say the same about infrastructure. Sixty percent of Nigerian CFOs say inflation must be tamed to fix the economy and 63 percent of South African CFOs say political instability must be reduced. Nearly half of South African CFOs say they lack the human capital necessary to respond rapidly to a sudden increase in demand. Fifty-three percent indicate a lack of public trust is greatly harming the business environment and another 29 percent say the harm is moderate.

South African optimism fell to 39 this quarter, from 45 last quarter, while Nigerian optimism increased from 49 to 52. Capital spending will rise by a median 5 percent, and wages should increase 7 percent over the next 12 months. Fulltime employment will decrease. African CFOs are worried about economic uncertainty, government policies, currency risk and, in Nigeria, inflation. Nearly 80 percent of African CFOs say their companies are not even halfway to implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.