CFO insights: Leading the recovery for sustainable growth

Research by U.S. Bank shines a light on how U.S. finance leaders are guiding their businesses forward with resilience, technology and an increased emphasis on social issues and sustainability.

Tags: Education, Public relations, Technology
Published: May 14, 2021

A historic pandemic is constantly challenging businesses to remake themselves. Staying agile and competitive has required frequent evaluation – and re-evaluation – of how business is done.

U.S. Bank surveyed CFOs and senior finance leaders to shine a light on shifting priorities and business evolution. We found businesses navigating a fine line between cutting costs and investing in the future, with an increased emphasis on issues involving ESG (environmental, social and governance).

  • 50% of finance leaders tell us they will invest in technology in 2021 to cut costs and drive efficiencies. 
  • 42% are evaluating new business models to drive growth and transformation.
  • 71% say their focus on ESG has increased in the past 12 months.

Building a base for business transformation

infographic from digital book

Juggling all of these priorities is not easy: 44% of finance leaders tell us they struggle to balance the short- and long-term needs of their business, and 46% struggle to balance the need to cut costs and build resiliency with the need to invest in future growth.

Our survey also asked finance leaders whether they plan to continue with any of the initiatives they introduced during COVID-19 when the pandemic recedes. Four in 10 say more flexible budgeting and capital planning, more agile business practices, and increased budget for technology.

Notably, while 50% of the finance leaders plan to invest in technology to help cut costs, just 22% intend to reduce office and real estate costs. This likely reflects the uncertainty surrounding when it will be safe to fully return to the office and that many businesses have long-term real estate contracts that do not enable immediate opportunities for cost savings.  

Emphasis on ESG

According to the survey data, 50% of the finance leaders are assessing the environmental credentials of potential third parties and investments, and 45% are assessing the risk that climate change poses to the business’s operations and supply chains 


To learn more about how U.S. finance teams are guiding their businesses toward sustainable growth, read the 2021 CFO Insights Report from U.S. Bank.