Will He Stay or Will He Go: Finance Leaders Focused on Bernanke’s Future at Fed

Chartered Global Management Accountants say top Fed post still has substantial sway on economy

June 18, 2013

Contacts: Jonathan B. Cox, 919-402-4499, jcox@aicpa.org or Andrew Graham, 212-596-6286, agraham@aicpa.org

New York (June 18, 2013) – In boardrooms across the country, finance executives share a common question: Will he stay or will he go? All eyes are on Ben Bernanke amid speculation that he will cede the top spot at the Federal Reserve, a post that business leaders say in a new survey still holds substantial sway over the nation’s economic well-being – and the fortunes of their own operations.

A strong majority, 88 percent, of CFOs, controllers, and other U.S. financial leaders with the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation said that they think the individual serving as Fed chief has at least moderate influence on the economy, according to the nationwide survey conducted late last month by the American Institute of CPAs. More than a third, 34 percent, ranked the chairman’s influence as high.

Decisions by the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the world’s largest economy, have global implications and affect everything from the rates homeowners pay for mortgages to the strength of the U.S. dollar against other currencies. The chairman has significant clout to shape the bank’s actions.

“The Fed chief is like a quarterback, guiding strategy and initiating action,” said James R. Blake, CPA, CGMA, CFO of Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Waterparks. “It’s a key role that can affect the moves of all the other players on the field. CGMA designation holders across the country are watching closely for any changes in the position so they and their companies can anticipate their next moves.”

Right now, employment is a bigger concern for the finance leaders surveyed than inflation. Asked to choose the issue that they would want the next Fed chairman to focus on as the central bank considers policy actions, 35 percent said “increase employment” while 16 percent said “keep inflation low.” More than half, 58 percent, don’t expect the Fed to raise rates for at least a year.

And while the Securities and Exchange Commission has blessed social media disclosure for companies, most finance executives are not looking for more Tweets from the Fed. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed, 62 percent, said they do not think the Fed needs to make more effective use of social media to increase transparency and awareness of its actions.

The survey, conducted by email between May 16 and May 30, had 550 respondents from senior financial leaders with the CGMA designation.