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The Sleepless CFO


Broadening responsibilities at a business brings with it an exponential increase in worries. And retail is no exception. As CFOs have become more forward-looking and strategic, their concerns have grown beyond retail basics to also encompass such issues as growing competition, data security, regulatory affairs, global economic health and globalization.

“From an external standpoint, CFOs have resurgent economic worries about weak growth rates, slow job growth and the ripple effect on consumer demand, and regulations from both federal and state governments,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail and distribution leader, Deloitte LLP. “From an internal standpoint, CFOs are concerned about brand strength in light of increasing competition as well as cyber crime and data breaches.”

The growing number of channels available to shoppers to obtain goods, and how best to utilize or defend against them, is another big worry. “The Internet has to be the first and foremost concern,” said Al Ferrara, a partner and leader of BDO’s Retail and Consumer Products Practice, Melville, N.Y.

While some believe that globalization is not much of a factor right now, that may change.

“With a growing middle class, we’re seeing tremendous opportunities globally, in some cases more than in North America,” says Bob Comeau, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, McLean, Virginia. Capital investment and repatriation will also be on the CFO’s plate, he noted.

Increasingly, data security is becoming an ongoing concern — and in some cases, a nightmare — that causes many a CFO to toss and turn at night. Even if IT doesn’t report to the CFO, losses suffered from a breach will be the CFO’s next worry.

And of course, all CFOs must worry about the future.

“Am I contemporary enough? Have I learned something new? A good CFO asks those questions,” said Les Berglass, chairman and CEO of executive search firm Berglass+Associates, New York City.

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