CFOs Foresee a Turbulant 2016

Close to 86 per cent of finance professionals in the GCC rate the risk exposure of the current global economic and political outlook as either high or very high, the recently published CFO Strategies Index has revealed.

The index is the first of its kind to be dedicated entirely to the needs of Middle Eastern CFOs, and the results of its second edition were previewed at the ninth annual CFO Strategies Forum, organised by French business facilitation group, Naseba.

Although many organisations have transitioned out of the crisis management mode necessitated by the recession, its aftershocks continue to be felt in multiple industries. Now, more than ever, businesses need to tread cautiously and revisit their risk management strategies.

Chief financial officers (CFOs) are increasingly being called upon to use their analytical abilities and to play a bigger role in the region, experts at the event stressed.

One of the index's most telling revelations is that CFOs are not predicting an improvement in the global economic outlook in the near future -- most respondents were either uncertain or indifferent about the development of the global market over the next two years.

Eyad Ramlawi, vice-president and chief strategy and finance officer at Al Turki Holding, believed that a CFO's most important role is "keeping the board and other executives aware of how various future scenarios might impact the business."

According to Matein Khalid, managing director at IPC Global, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are facing the deflationary triple whammy that the 20 per cent rise in the US dollar index and the 60 per cent fall in crude oil presents to the GCC, signalling that there are trying times ahead for not only finance professionals and investors in the region, but also potentially for everyone.

Peter Middlebrook, CEO and managing director of public sector modernisation and economic reform at Geopolicity, noted that finance professionals would do well to hold on to a healthy amount of cynicism, pointing out that "as an open economy, the UAE is directly affected by the global market and world affairs" and will therefore be directly influenced by developments like the yuan's imminent entry into the world reserve currency market.