CEOs are optimistic, but CFOs need to keep their eyes on risk

July 19, 2021, 9:54 AM UTC

Good morning.

Business optimism remains at the highest level it’s been in over a decade, according to a new survey out this morning from JPMorgan Chase. Nearly nine out of ten executives surveyed (88%) said they are optimistic about their company’s prospects for the next six months—the highest level of optimism in the survey’s 11-year history, and more than double the rates of a year ago. The vast majority (80%) expect their revenues/sales to rise, and nearly half (46%) plan to increase their capital spending.

But that’s not to say there aren’t clouds on the horizon. Supply chain challenges, a tight labor market, inflation and cybersecurity all rank high on the list of business concerns for the coming months. You can get more detail from the survey here.

Meanwhile, while CEOs may feel good about their booming businesses, it’s CFOs who have to keep their eyes on risks like those cited above, as well as longer-term challenges, including climate change.  That will be the topic of our meeting of the CFO Collaborative on August 11, when Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan will be joining to discuss the “promise and pressure of ESG Measures.” If you are a CFO and haven’t joined—or if you are a CEO who thinks your finance chief would benefit from some enhanced peripheral vision—email us at And sign up for the CFO Daily newsletter here.

More news below. And be sure to check out Yvonne Lau’s smart story on what the crackdown on Chinese company IPOs in the U.S. may mean for the Hong Kong market.

Alan Murray


Oil production

OPEC+ has agreed to phase out production cuts by September 2022, leaving the second half of this year still rather tight. The OPEC cartel and its oil-producing allies say demand is increasing again, due to vaccination programs. CNBC

Zoom buy

Zoom is buying call-center provider Five9 for $14.7 billion, in a deal that could help Zoom better compete with outfits such as RingCentral. Zoom CEO Erin Yuan: "We are continuously looking for ways to enhance our platform, and the addition of Five9 is a natural fit." Fortune

Universal deal

Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Tontine (a blank-check company, or SPAC) has changed its mind about buying 10% of Universal Music Group, and is instead assigning its rights and obligations to investment funds that are also closely linked to Ackman. SEC scrutiny is apparently responsible for the deal restructuring. Wall Street Journal

Zegna deal

Zegna, the century-old Italian luxury fashion group, will go public via a U.S. SPAC merger. The deal will value the group at $3.2 billion. The SPAC in question has former UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti at the helm, and was launched by European private equity outfit Investindustrial. Financial Times


Spyware exposed

News outlets around the world have collaboratively investigated the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, whose spyware may have been installed on the phones of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists, judging by a leaked list of targeted numbers. NSO claims its Pegasus spyware is only supposed to be used against criminal and terrorists. Guardian

Freedom Day

It's Freedom Day in the U.K.: With case numbers rapidly rising, the government has removed most social-distancing restrictions, letting the virus rip. Call it the beginning of a huge, potentially deadly experiment. Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself is celebrating from isolation, as is Chancellor Rishi Sunak, after double-vaccinated (AstraZeneca) Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive for the virus. Johnson and Sunak initially tried to claim they didn't need to isolate, unlike the million Brits who are currently in the same boat, but met a bit of a backlash. Evening Standard

Mask mandates

As case numbers rise in the U.S., Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said he is in favor of county-level mask mandates: "It’s very reasonable for counties to take more mitigation measures like the mask rules you see coming out in L.A., and I anticipate that will happen in other parts of the country too." Washington Post

RIP Robotaxis?

The Financial Times has a great piece on how Big Tech may have blown it with its all-or-nothing approach to self-driving vehicles. Despite the lofty claims of a few years ago, the only real success is being found in the more auto-industry-friendly evolutionary approach. Financial Times

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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