CFOs to Increase Focus on Cost Control

March 20, 2007 ( - A new survey by CFO Research Services and American Express found many chief financial officers at American companies plan greater focus on controlling and reducing costs.

According to a press release on survey results, 78% of senior financial executives polled said they planned some or many improvements to cost management methods over the next year; while another 13% said cost-management is their top target for improvement. Strategies for tighter cost management cited by respondents included improving the monitoring of employee compliance with spending policies (74%) and improving the tracking of spending (5%).

Eighty-four percent of respondents said a corporate card paid centrally by the company is “an effective way to gather information on spending activity.” However, a majority are dissatisfied with how they currently use spending information to manage some aspects of buying business travel and office supplies. Nearly two out of three (64%) of financial executives polled said “there is room for improvement” in the way their firms use information on employee spending behavior, and almost half (47%) said the same about their companies’ use of information on spending with vendors.

At the same time they are making plans to tighten spending, companies are investing more in on-the-road connectivity – cell phones, PDAs and other technology designed to increase business travelers’ productivity.

“Financial executives at mid-sized companies want to keep a tighter lid on costs, but, for the purchases they must make to keep business humming, CFOs want to see return on investment,” said Tom Tierney, SVP, Sales, American Express U.S. Commercial Card, in the release.

When asked to look forward to the next two years, 41% polled said they will buy more mobile technology such as cell phones, PDAs and other items, to help raise employees’ productivity while on the road. In addition, 43% said they will purchase more office equipment – including laptops.

Almost half (42%) of CFOs predicted that their business travel will increase, while one in four also plan to invest in more meetings and conference services.

The survey was conducted last December by CFO Research Services and commissioned by American Express among 332 senior financial executives at U.S. mid-sized firms.