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CEOs still worry more about financial performance than brand and reputation, claims research

CEOs aren’t sleeping well because of worries over their companies’ finances say over half of their comms directors. This is the finding of a recent poll from executive search firm Whitney Murray in partnership with The Pulse Business which asked in-house comms directors what is keeping their CEOs up at night, and the resounding answer at 58% is “financial performance”.

Which one of these, if any, is keeping your CEO awake at night?

Increasing financial pressures

Discussing the increasing pressures on corporate finances these days, Bobby Leach, VP corporate affairs at medical firm Convatec Group, says: “Failure to deliver appropriate returns to shareholders will continue to be the dominating issue for senior management of listed companies. Investors are increasingly focused on a wider range of issues than ever before, such as diversity, the environment, gender pay and employee engagement, but if investment returns are inadequate then this will be the focus of attention of the owners, and management teams know that they will be held to account.”

James Blamey, director of communications at technology firm Veritas, points out that financial performance always has to trump talent issues when it comes to the priorities of private companies: "Whilst brand and talent are key areas of concern, financial performance for a private company considering its future plans remains the driver for running the business. Sometimes at the detriment of talent."

Talent matters too

Blamey adds some vital context: “Whilst financial performance is a keystone for the CEO’s thoughts at night – especially for companies with private equity investors perhaps looking to the future with options of an IPO or acquisition on the cards. The leadership’s desire to focus on short-term gains to set themselves up for success, needs to be balanced with managing and retaining talent. As the pressure to ‘make the numbers’ increases, this is probably in an already challenging environment of ‘digital transformation’ and efficiency savings, the workforce is likely to feel the cultural change and impact, leading to a bigger and longer-term challenges of employing people in the future.”

Boom or bust

For business leaders the bottom line always has to come first, but this does not mean they don’t care about the company’s reputation or its people. As Rebecca Whitney, managing director of Whitney Murray, concludes: “Unsurprisingly, the majority of in-house communications directors feel his/her CEO’s pain when it comes to managing the numbers inside the business. Naturally the company’s reputation and managing talent continue to trouble senior management, but the lack of financial certainty is the biggest preoccupation.”


Around 400 in-house communications directors were questioned by the Whitney Murray Insight Pulse run in partnership with The Pulse Business

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