In the grand scheme of things, most CFOs are grateful for their lot. Most financial managers are happy to be alive and working today, enjoying the highest standards of living in history. No one in his right mind envies the Dickensian world suggested by the titles of our two feature stories — the 19th-century England of the sweatshop and workhouse, of the classic novels Great Expectations and Hard Times.
Yet the white-collar Boomer Generation has its own complaints of overwork and stress. And petty as they would seem to an Oliver Twist, those complaints are driving CFOs from their jobs (and, sometimes, to the doctor). For most people today, no amount of money is worth working 80 to 100 hours a week. But that's what some financial managers do, thanks to ever-greater obligations — in particular, the onerous requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. According to our poll of CFOs presented in "Hard Times", 68 percent say the pressures of the job have increased over the past two years.
In response, companies are beginning to hire more finance staffers and focus on training. Our other feature story, "Great Expectations," details how companies are preparing new recruits for post-Sarbox finance — and beyond. But for those recruits, that effort may be tinged with Dickensian irony, given the stressful realities of today's finance workplace.
Of course, a fortunate few will eventually become CFOs. In "Career Tracks," we show how today's top finance chiefs got to be where they are today. Fortunate, yes — but probably overworked and stressed-out, too.