Holding Patterns

Companies continue to pile up cash, but the number of female CFOs has leveled off.


"Too much is never enough" is the new corporate mantra when it comes to cash. The recession did nothing to slow the accumulation of vast piles of greenbacks in company coffers, a trend that has been well under way for most of this decade.

This may be one aspect of the "new normal" that CFOs will happily embrace. True, shareholders are beginning to grumble, and some CFOs concede that the pressure to do a deal, buy back shares, or fund organic growth is intensifying. But good luck trying to find a CFO who feels a genuine sense of urgency about any of that. In these troubled times, the "fortress" balance sheet provides a level of comfort akin to wrapping oneself in a fleece blanket and settling down to a meatloaf dinner — in Fort Knox. Can it last? Senior editor Vincent Ryan put that question to a broad range of finance executives and other industry experts. Find out what they had to say in "Time to Get Off Your Cash?"

Even as they've accumulated actual capital over the past decade, many companies have also accumulated a particular form of human capital: female executive talent. The percentage of CFO posts held by women rose markedly from 1995 to 2005, but of late it has leveled off, at about 8% across companies of all sizes. Should we stop referring to the "glass ceiling" and instead talk about the "glass percentage"? Flexible work arrangements, from modified work hours to telecommuting, are often positioned as a solution to this thorny reality, but as senior editor Alix Stuart notes in "The Perils of Flextime," the schedule that allows you to manage the job you hold today may hurt your chances of advancing to the job you hope to hold tomorrow. We surveyed more than 300 finance executives on this topic, and their views might surprise you.

Finally, if you're still under the spell of World Cup fever, bear in mind that the next iteration, in 2014, will take place in Brazil. By then your company may, like many others, be well established there. But Brazil poses special challenges for finance. In "Brazil Is Booming (and Maddening)," we offer a crash course. Get it right and you'll have cause to blow your own vuvuzela.


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