Finance leaders expect to spend more on marketing, IT, sales, and most of payroll leads, which saw an uptick of 80% planned, a survey by Oracle's NetSuite found.
63% of non-finance execs say they expect higher capital outlays in 2020, as compared to just 51% of the finance executive respondents, the report showed.
All respondents agreed trade wars, tariffs, talent shortages and upward wage pressure top the list of pressing concerns for 2020.
Of the 361 executives that completed NetSuite's Brainyard Winter 2020 Outlook Survey, 52% were in finance. The largest divide between finance executives and those in other departments concerns money management: finance executives are much more concerned about stable cash flow, budget adherence, and realizing projected revenue than the others.
Non-finance execs worried more about hiring and retaining staff, improving customer experience and maintaining employee satisfaction. They are also much more likely to expect more capital expenditures in 2020.
Another recent Oracle NetSuite survey, which explored the evolving role of the CFO, found that the job’s primary focus is "managing to reality."
"No one likes puncturing high-flying marketing or capital infrastructure thought balloons," the NetSuite survey report said. "But the areas where our respondent camps diverge illustrate that, whether they like it or not, finance pros need to keep their colleagues tethered to reality."
CFOs' grounded attitude showed up in responses to an open-ended question about what keeps them up at night, and what makes them optimistic.
"Getting buy-in from non-finance departments to stick to their budgets and even come under where possible, rather than 'spend to what you’re allotted,'" is what I look for, one respondent answered. Another pointed to stabilizing cash flow as a top priority.
Non-finance respondents were more focused on customer and sales optimization. "Will companies continue to purchase our products, and what new products should we be focusing on to maintain our leadership in the market?" was a typical response.
In a less surprising finding, improved KPI reporting was a top CFO priority, and less so for business execs. On the other hand, improving data collection was a top job for non-finance execs but the lowest priority for finance teams. And identifying a new investment area was the biggest for non-finance respondents, which is in line with their willingness to deploy capital, researchers said.
Companies were also divided along lines of revenue. Respondents with less than $10 million in earnings were found to be much less likely to plan capital projects compared to those with $11 million to $50 million in revenue.
At the same time, respondents in the $51 million to $500 million band were much more likely to plan to acquire one or more companies in 2020. Almost half said they had a serious interest in acquisitions.
External factors are shared concern
Despite each of these dividing traits, some universal setbacks applied to both finance and business leaders at companies of all sizes and revenues: namely, tariffs and political uncertainty.
"We can only raise prices so much, so the tariffs are negatively impacting our profit margins," one respondent, whose company is expanding sales efforts and launching new products, said.
"Our products from China continue to have 10% to 15% increases every few months — worried this will drive our customers away as we have to pass the cost on to them," another respondent said, adding that there are "few alternative sources for these products as most are not made in the USA."
A third respondent, working for a domestic transportation provider for international imports, said his worry will continue to be "tariffs, tariffs, tariffs."