CFOs See North America’s Economic Conditions Improving and Potential for Higher Productivity with GenAI Despite Concerns Over GenAI Skills: Deloitte CFO Signals™ Survey 1Q 2024

Key Takeaways

More than half (59%) of CFOs rate the current North American economy as good or very good, with 54% saying they expect conditions to improve in a year.

CFOs’ optimism for their companies’ financial prospects spiked to +31 from last quarter’s +11.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of CFOs view U.S. equity markets as overvalued, perhaps due to high valuations.

Debt and equity financing are considered more attractive by CFOs this quarter than they were in 4Q23, up to 18% and 37%, respectively, from 19% and 10%. This could be due to the Federal Reserve’s indications that interest rates might drop this year.

For 60% of surveyed CFOs, bringing in talent with Generative AI (GenAI) skills into their finance organizations over the next two years ranges from moderately important to very or extremely important.

Talent rose to the top as the biggest concerns impacting GenAI adoption in the finance function. CFOs identified GenAI technical skills (65%) and GenAI fluency (53%) as two of the top three most significant concerns.

Why it matters to CFOs

Each quarter, CFO Signals™ tracks the thinking and actions of leading CFOs representing North America’s largest and most influential companies. Since 2010, the survey has provided key insights into the business environment, company priorities and expectations, finance priorities, and CFOs’ priorities. This quarter, participating CFOs represent diversified, large companies, with 81% of respondents reporting annual revenue in excess of $1 billion, and 20% from companies with more than $10 billion in annual revenue.

Economic outlook

CFO sentiment toward current conditions rose across three of the five economic regions tracked in this survey.

In North America, 59% of CFOs expressed optimism for the current economy, up from 47% tracked in 4Q23. CFOs also slightly raised their assessment of economic conditions in Europe, with 12% rating the current economy as good or very good, compared with 9% in the previous quarter. Additionally, CFOs almost doubled their positive assessment of economic conditions in South America, jumping from 8% in 4Q23 to 14% in this quarter’s report. CFOs’ outlook for economic conditions to improve in China in the year ahead stayed flat at 3%, while CFOs dropped their assessment for conditions in Asia (excluding China) to 27% from 28% in 4Q23.

For the year ahead, 54% of CFOs expect economic conditions in North America to improve, up from 37% tracked the previous quarter. Just under one-quarter (24%) of CFOs expect the European economy to improve in a year, up from 16%. Regarding China’s economy, 17% of CFOs expect conditions to improve in a year, an increase from 12% last quarter. CFOs also expressed optimism that economic conditions in Asia (excluding China) would improve in a year, climbing to 31% from 26% in 4Q23. CFOs’ expectations for improvement in economic conditions only fell in their assessment of South America, where 16% expect conditions to improve, dropping from 18% last quarter.

Own company optimism and risk

The percentage of CFOs expressing optimism for their companies’ financial prospects increased to 42% from 38% in the prior quarter, while those expressing pessimism dropped to 11% from 27%. As a result, CFOs’ net optimism shot up to +31 from +11. At odds with this rise in optimism, the number of CFOs who believe now is a good time to take greater risks (40%) was outweighed by those who say now is not a good time to take greater risks (60%). This is largely in line with what was found in the previous quarter, signaling that CFOs appear cautious with their risk-taking endeavors despite optimism for economic conditions in the year ahead.

Talent continued to top CFOs’ list of internal concerns, followed by execution and efficiency. A small number of CFOs also noted cyberattacks, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence among their most worrisome internal risks, indicating that such threats are not only an external concern. Externally, concerns over geopolitics and macroeconomics ranked top of mind for CFOs, followed by the political environment.

Growth expectations for key metrics

In 1Q24, CFOs raised their year-over-year growth expectations across the performance metrics tracked by CFO Signals except domestic wages/salaries and capital investment. CFOs’ expectations for earnings growth increased to 7.3% from 6.8%, growth expectations for revenue rose to 5.4% from 5.1%, growth expectations for dividends rose to 3% from 2.6% last quarter, and expectations for domestic wages increased to 1.8% from 1.6%. Growth expectations for capital investment fell to 5.8% from 6%, and CFOs dropped their growth expectations for domestic wages/salaries slightly, to 3.5% from 3.8%.

Assessment of GenAI

As with the adoption of any new technology, CFOs are looking at how GenAI could be deployed across their business. When asked which top five functions their enterprise is exploring for the adoption of GenAI, 64% of CFOs indicated IT, 54% business operations, 50% customer/client services, 49% finance, and 38% sales and marketing. Seventy percent of CFOs expect productivity hikes of between 1% and 10% from GenAI.

Slightly less than half (44%) of respondents say that GenAI has a minimal or moderate impact on their current finance talent models. Moreover, CFOs cite GenAI technical skills (65%), GenAI fluency (53%), and the risk of adoption (30%) as the top three most-cited concerns in enabling finance teams to use the technology. Still, 93% of respondents report that bringing talent with GenAI skills into finance over the next two years is important to varying degrees, with 27% saying it is very important or extremely important, and 33% saying it is moderately important.

When it comes to accessing the skills needed to incorporate GenAI into the broader enterprise, CFOs expect their organizations to develop existing talent (50%) as opposed to hiring external talent (37%), and 37% indicate purchasing vendor solutions or services.

Assessment of capital markets

Approximately two-thirds of surveyed CFOs (65%) consider U.S. equities overvalued this quarter, a notable increase from 35% in 4Q23. Only 5% of respondents regarded U.S. equities as undervalued, dropping significantly from last quarter’s 23%. Both metrics represent the highest and lowest recordings, respectively, since 1Q22.

CFOs’ enthusiasm for debt and equity financing rose this quarter, perhaps due to the recent rise in stock prices and signals from the Federal Reserve that it may cut interest rates this year. Eighteen percent of CFOs found debt financing attractive, up slightly from last quarter’s 10%, while 37% consider equity financing attractive, an increase from the previous quarter’s 19%.

Key quotes

“Talent continues to bubble to the top of these conversations — from both a concern and an opportunity perspective. This quarter’s report reveals CFOs’ recognition of the importance of digital fluency both in the enterprise and in their own finance organization — although the pace of adoption may vary. Longer term, it appears that digital skills will likely become increasingly integrated into the finance team’s toolkit, and into CFOs’ suite of responsibilities.”

— Steve Gallucci, national managing partner, U.S. CFO Program, Deloitte LLP

“We are seeing GenAI continue to rise on the agenda of CFOs as they explore ways for this innovative technology to augment value for their organization. CFOs are at the forefront to guide strategic investments that will upskill both their finance function and the organization at large and recognize that achieving success in today’s business landscape will require digital fluency across all functions of the organization.”


Every quarter, Deloitte’s CFO Signals closely follows the thinking and priorities of leading CFOs who represent some of North America’s largest and most impactful organizations. This report summarizes CFOs’ opinions across four key areas: business environment, company expectations and priorities, financial priorities, and personal priorities.

The CFO Signals survey for the first quarter of 2024 was conducted between Feb. 5, 2024, and Feb. 20, 2024. A total of 116 CFOs participated in this quarter’s survey. This survey seeks responses from CFOs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, and the vast majority are from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Participation is open to all industries except public sector entities.


About Deloitte

Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including nearly 90% of the Fortune 500® and more than 8,500 U.S.-based private companies. At Deloitte, they strive to live their purpose of making an impact that matters by creating trust and confidence in a more equitable society. They leverage their unique blend of business acumen, command of technology, and strategic technology alliances to advise their clients across industries as they build their future. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving their clients in the markets that are most important to them. Bringing more than 175 years of service, their network of member firms spans more than 150 countries and territories.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.