Press release: More than 1 in 3 CFOs worry about paying employees on time


Coupa's Strategic CFO survey reveals the tradeoffs CFOs are making between cost-cutting and profit-building strategies to remain competitive.

The imminent threat of a recession is increasing worry among CFOs, forcing them to make short-term business decisions that may significantly impact growth levers for the long-term.

The priority concern is hitting sales forecasts in the next six to 12 months (91 percent), as well as declining profitability and margins (42 percent), meeting payroll (39 percent), and going bankrupt/running out of cash (36 percent), according to new survey data from Coupa Software (NASDAQ: COUP), the leader in Business Spend Management (BSM).

CFOs will continue to face mounting hardships among today’s economic uncertainty and increasingly look to cut costs. Many have already resorted to layoffs, despite 86 percent saying layoffs are a last resort to cut costs and 87 percent recognizing layoffs create long-term issues. That’s leading CFOs to prioritize alternate cost-cutting measures this year, including increasing the price of products and services sold (38 percent), enforcing stricter spend rules (33 percent), and renegotiating supplier contracts (32 percent).

CFOs can't cut what they can't see
Without a granular level of visibility across a company’s entire spend activity, CFOs will not be able to make informed cost-cutting decisions that allow them to stay competitive. Nearly half (46%) of CFOs surveyed suffer from a lack of visibility. They point to critical blockers within their organizations:

  • 57 percent have spend data siloed across multiple systems.
  • 44 percent have extremely labour-intensive processes to gather data.
  • Less than half (46 percent) have proactive and predictive financial forecasting and risk management tools, indicating a majority are ill equipped to plan for the future.

“Economic volatility calls for a strategy of managing costs intelligently, rather than hurrying to cut costs reactively. The ability to do this hinges on having a wealth of data that is accurate and timely to inform decision making,” said Tony Tiscornia, Coupa CFO. “Resilient companies use intelligent spend data to execute in the present with urgency, but in a way that reduces the risk of unintended long-term negative consequences.”

CFOs turn to automation to boost profitability
Despite the need to cut costs, CFOs recognize the importance of investing in automation to reach a state of financial maturity to combat disruption and achieve long-term success. Nearly all (93 percent) seek more automation to help them confidently and quickly respond to threats, and the majority (52 percent) say digitization will increase profitability. CFOs top automation investments for this year include supplier management (39 percent), invoicing and payments (37 percent), and procurement (34 percent).

“Automation technologies allow CFOs to chart a course through the storm and emerge stronger,” continued Tony. “With a potential recession on the way, it’s absolutely critical CFOs optimize financial health by equipping their organization to respond faster and more strategically to disruption. It’s how CFOs will help their companies survive a recession and come out of it ready to accelerate growth.

Read the full report: The Strategic CFO: Maintaining a Competitive Edge in Uncertain Times

You can also watch the webinar here

The survey was conducted among 600 CFOs and finance leaders (SVPs and higher who report to the CFO) in businesses with over $500 million in revenue across Canada, the US, UK, Ireland, France, and Germany. The survey was carried out online with an email invitation between November and December 2022 by Wakefield Research.