The inside scoop directly from CFOs

For several decades, Professor John Graham has led a survey of chief financial officers that is one of the world’s top predictors for how companies will hire and spend. Policymakers find CFO Survey data so valuable, the Federal Reserve is now a partner in conducting the research. Graham explains what CFOs are saying about the impact of COVID-19 on their companies and why business school graduates next year might find a particularly robust job market.

Dean Bill Boulding interviews John Graham on Instagram

John Graham, D. Richard Mead, Jr. Professor of Finance

“There are three elements of what was so shocking about all this. One was, this happened around the world. I’ve never seen a recession that didn’t kind of roll through the world. This thing hit everywhere at once. So that’s big. The second is how deep it went. And third is how fast it went. It happened overnight almost, over a few day period. We are, right now, as low as the optimism has ever been in the history of our (quarterly CFO) survey. And again, we went from almost average, to as low as it has ever been within a few days. You combine all that, and it’s pretty shocking at how significantly negative the outlook is right now.”

“So as we all know, right now, things have dropped very low but what we do in the survey is we ask for 12 month forecasts. So, what will things be like one year from now? And again, this is what has been a very good predictor in the past and we hope it continues to be in the future. And what we hear is, yes, things will be down a little bit, one year from now, relative to the beginning of March. But not too much. So in other words, we do expect a pretty good recovery to get us back to almost where we were at about 12 months from now. Yes, we have some rocky times right now, for the next few months probably. We think this rebound will be fairly substantial and get us back close to where we were.”

“Yes, I’m optimistic that a year from now, companies will be looking to restock, and rehire and reemploy. And of course the issues that everyone has to deal with are going to be dramatic. And so, business school type of expert students will be in high demand a year, certainly two years from now.”


Quick Facts

Area: Finance

Elective Course: Corporate Finance, Corporate Restructuring

Researches: Corporate Finance; Taxation; Investments; Herding; Combining and Assessing Forecasts

Street Cred:

Director of the quarterly CFO survey in partnership with the Federal Reserve Banks of Richmond and Atlanta

Co-editor of the Journal of Finance, associate editor of The Review of Financial Studies, Finance Research Letters, and Financial Management

Served on the board of directors of the American Finance Association, the Western Finance Association, and the Financial Management Association, three of the largest academic finance professional organizations

Research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research


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