Despite the booming stock market, optimism among chief financial officers is declining—ever so slightly. That was the finding of a recent survey of CFOs by Deloitte. The share of such North American executives who rated current economic conditions “good” dropped from 94% in the second quarter—a record high—to 89% in the third quarter.
And on Monday, three CFOs who spoke at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif., seemed to reflect that collective opinion.
In short: Even with the charging bull market, they say, risks abound.
Top of mind for Vanessa Wittman, outgoing CFO at Oath, is the U.S.’s trade standoff with China. She’s worried of what could happen to the economy if China becomes a net seller, rather than a net buyer, of treasury bonds. “When do we hit that inflection point where trillions of dollars of debt are flowing in the wrong direction?” she said.
For Martina Hund-Mejean, CFO of Mastercard, a chief concern is the passing of “nationalistic policies”—ones that encourage international consumers to use domestic payment systems and require companies to store data locally. Another worry is being “on the forefront of tech” and ensuring that the company is “connected enough with the technology sector.”
“You never want to miss one of these technology investments that will further what you’re doing as a company,” she said.
The regulation of data is a worry of Elena Gomez, CFO of Zendesk, as are trends in customer expectations. “I expect the shoes I ordered from Amazon to be waiting for me at home,” she said. “That wasn’t the case two or three years ago.” As a result, it’s her goal to “see where the puck is going.”
(Among Deloitte survey respondents, the top external concerns were geopolitical and economic events, especially trade policy and interest rates.)
Such anxieties are not uncommon for executives who manage a company’s purse strings, even as the market booms. CFOs, said Hund-Mejean, are a “glass half-empty” bunch.
“There’s always stuff that can go wrong,” she said.
A way for CFOs to breathe a little easier is to be transparent with investors about what can happen in different scenarios, said Hund-Mejean, who considers such variables when drafting “upside” and “downside” versions of her budget. “You never want something to come as a surprise.”