Finding enough quality talent — and keeping that talent — is the primary concern for Arizona chief financial officers, according to a new survey that highlighted talent, tech and taxes.

Seventy-nine percent of Arizona CFOs surveyed said available skilled talent was the top priority to improve business opportunities. This is up from 59 percent in 2016, according to the third-annual Arizona CFO Spotlight Survey by BeachFleischman PC, one of Arizona’s largest locally-owned CPA firms.

In response to this talent need, local CFOs are looking toward automation and other technology to reduce workforce needs.

Executives also are looking at universities, international markets and work-at-home options to find more employees, said Jon Bickerton, a shareholder with BeachFleischman who heads up the firm’s high-tech industry practice.

“As a result, high-tech companies are the most likely of all industries surveyed to offer work-at-home options for employees,” Bickerton said in an email. “In the meantime, respondents cite international hires or outsourcing internationally as a way to deal with staffing shortages.”

Optimism is on the rise across several industries, based on hundreds of CFOs and leaders in Phoenix and Tucson surveyed during the past three years, he said.

“Business optimism in the Phoenix tech sector has gone up with regard to Arizona’s economic climate as well as the overall U.S. economy, with 33 percent stating they are very optimistic and 67 percent somewhat optimistic,” Bickerton said.

Optimism in Phoenix is now at 86 percent, and optimism in Tucson is at 95 percent, according to the survey.

CFOs also are taking advantage of new corporate tax laws and lower tax rates to plan capital investments, Bickerton said.

“CFOs cite the need for corporate tax incentives as a top priority for growth and many of the incentives and benefits were made into law as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” he said.

Seventy-six percent of CFOs cited “continuous innovation” as the top change management strategy. Because of this, technology is high on the minds of leaders as they deal with labor shortages, said Marc Fleischman, CEO of BeachFleischman.

“Across the major industries we surveyed, 33 percent of leaders cited artificial intelligence as a key consideration or investment in their change management strategy in the next 12 months,” Fleischman said in a statement.

Other key findings from the survey:

*Education/training has maintained high value among leaders as a top recruitment and retention benefit — ranked by 60 percent of leaders over the past three years of the survey.

*Concern regarding border security/immigration policy remains at 11 percent of leaders for two years of the survey.

*Prices are going up among 40 percent of leaders in the survey, an increase from 32 percent in 2016 across all industries surveyed.

*The top state infrastructure request is public transit, followed by wider roads and IT improvements.

*Cybersecurity measures during the past two years have 90 percent of respondents fairly confident that they can protect their organizations from a data breach, but only 33 percent noted active disaster planning in the event of a breach.

*Since the survey began in 2016, flexible scheduling as a real employee benefit has earned its stripes. This year, 64 percent of leaders said their companies or organizations offer “flexible scheduling” (up from 45 percent in 2017).

*Also, 42 percent of leaders offer “work at home” options as a competitive benefit (up from 24 percent in 2017).

The third-annual 2018 Arizona CFO Spotlight Survey was developed by BeachFleischman, in collaboration with Bank of Arizona, Financial Executives and Affiliates of Tucson, Pinnacle Plan Design LLC and Phoenix CEO-CFO Group.


By Hayley Ringle – Reporter, Phoenix Business Journal