NACM's October Survey, which asked "Looking forward to 2009, as a credit professional, what are your biggest concerns?," showed that the struggling global economic situation is weighing heavily on the minds of credit professionals as 2008 winds down, with a whopping 88.1% of respondents listing "the state and future of the economy" as one of their three foremost concerns. In the survey, participants were asked to choose their top three concerns from a list of 10 options that included technology issues, job security and several other diverse concerns. Coming in at second place with 75.4% was "slower payment due to tightened credit," while other concerns receiving a significant amount of votes included "health and diversity of your customer base" (30.5%), "pressure to meet upper management expectations" (25.2%) and "job security or finding and keeping qualified staff" (22.8%).
As the survey closed just a few days prior to election day, politics were on several respondents' minds as indicated by the survey's comment section, where participants voiced their worries about the country's political leadership. "The existing and likely deterioration in U.S. Legislative, Executive and Judicial leadership gives me great concern," said one respondent. Others were more accusatory in their political assertions and some even expressed hopelessness at the government's potential response to the crisis. "Politicians are using the economic crisis, caused by their policies, as an excuse for even more regulation and a grab for even more government power, which greatly concerns me," said one participant. "With all the present federal and state regulators, they provided no warning or direction that would have helped us avoid the current crisis," said another, ominously adding, "They are good for one thing: to go onto the battlefield to bayonet the wounded."
Some survey respondents noted that many of their concerns stem from conflicts between the needs of the credit department and the needs of upper management or the company itself. "At a time when cash flow should be king, we are having layoffs company-wide; and the credit department is no exception. Customers are paying slower and we have fewer credit reps to contact the customers due to these recent layoffs," said one respondent. "Upper management has suddenly gotten on board with protecting assets and it is causing quite a flurry of initiatives that are in addition to already stressed normal workloads," said another respondent.
Another popular, albeit foreboding, theme that arose in the comment section was that participants couldn't limit their concerns to just three. "I would have checked each one of them if I could have," said one respondent. "They are all of great concern in 2009."
Other remaining responses were as follows:
Implementation of a new technology, such as a credit scoring model or ERP system (8.9%)
Compliance with impending or current regulations (7.8%)
A merger or acquisition involving your company (6.9%)
Relationships with other company staff (3.2%)
Be sure to visit www.nacm.org to participate in NACM's November Monthly Survey, which deals with business expectations for next year.
Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer