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Attention finance executives: The relationship between CFOs and their boards is changing significantly from what it was a few years ago. And to be effective, you'd be wise to prepare yourself to address the questions and issues boards are focused on.
That's according to Jeff Burchill, CFO and senior vice president of FM Global, the Johnston, RI, insurance giant. Burchill says that after the economy tanked in 2008, boards switched from a focus on top-line growth and winning market share to an emphasis on cost containment--whether to close facilities, for example, or which assets to dispose of--for obvious reasons. But now, the interest is swinging back to strategy and top-line growth. (Burchill plans to discuss these observations in more depth at the MIT Sloan CFO Forum in Boston later this month).
Data breaches are costing companies globally and in the US a small fortune. And it looks like October had a few humdingers.
First, for the cost. The average cost of a data breach experienced by companies in 2009 was $3.4 million, or $142 per customer. That's according to a survey by the Ponemon Institute, which studied firms in the US, UK, Germany, Australia and France.
Tuesday's election was, of course, the first since the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, which allowed corporations, as well as as union and other groups, to spend however much they want on political campaigns. And sure enough, during this election, the faucet opened wide and millions of dollars were spent on political ads.
But for companies, the big question is, what does this activity mean for business? And there's some indication the answer isn't as positive as you'd think.
The contraction in lending to small companies is a result of deteriorating revenues, not a slowdown in demand.
That, at least, is the conclusion of a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It studied 426 small businesses last summer and found that demand for loans actually has increased, but banks have been turning more companies down. And that, of course, flies in the face of other research that shows the lack of lending is due to fewer businesses seeking loans.
Customer service has a direct impact on profits. Ignore that and your bottom line will suffer.
That's the conclusion of a recent survey from American Express conducted in the US and 11 other countries. It found that most customers will spend an average of 9 percent more when they believe a company provides excellent service. And 91 percent consider the level of customer service important when deciding to do business with a company.
We're moving towards a "barbell" economy and it's a trend that will impact companies of every size.
That's one conclusion of a recent report on small-business trends over the next decade, from Intuit and Emergent Research. Specifically, the prediction is that there will be fewer, larger global giants on the one end, a narrow middle of mid-sized firms that increasingly will be gobbled up by big players, and a big group of small and micro businesses at the other end.
The SBA 's annual ranking of small-business lenders was just made available--and it reveals some interesting insights.
First, to clarify, the list isn't really a ranking. It includes all the lenders that made SBA-based loans in fiscal 2010, arranged alphabetically. But the information includes the number of loans each institutions made, along with the gross total amount of loans and the portion that was SBA-approved. So you can easily figure out which lenders are on top and which ones aren't.
Does it really make any difference if there are more women on boards?
A study from Heidrick & Struggles and WomenCorporateDirectors of 400 directors indicates the answer is "probably", at least if you're talking about attitudes towards a number of important issues. On the one hand, it found that men and women directors respond in much the same way to some key topics. At the same time, there are a quite a few notable issues where male and female directors most definitely seem to be on Mars and Venus.
Small businesses just officially got bigger.
That's because the Small Business Administration recently revised the size standards defining whether a company is really considered small and, therefore, is eligible for SBA programs. Generally, the new standards have been revised upwards; they cover three industries--retail, accommodation and food service, and "other services" sectors.
Should companies have to pay their employees sick leave? And would that prove to be a too-costly burden for businesses, especially small ones?
Those questions are more than hypothetical in New York City, where there's a bill pending to require private-sector firms to provide a specified number of sicks days a year; small businesses would have to provide five days, while bigger ones would give nine.