What Goes Up…

What the fallout from financial turmoil means for finance chiefs.

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…Must come down. Most CFOs who are old enough to remember the opening line of that hit song from the 1970s must have been humming it a lot lately, as the long period of record growth and profitability comes to an end. This month’s CFO Europe looks at what the consequences of the recent economic turmoil mean for finance chiefs.

One is extreme volatility. In the few months that Patrick de La Chevardière, a former drilling engineer, has been finance chief of Total, one of the world’s oil “super majors,” the price of oil has swung violently, from a record high of $150 a barrel in mid-July to $90 two months later. At the time of writing, the oil price is back in the triple-digits. Such volatility was never experienced by the CFO’s larger-than-life predecessor, Robert Castaigne — indeed, during much of his 14-year reign, oil hovered at around $20 a barrel. And the wild price swing is only one of the reasons why de La Chevardière’s experience as Total’s CFO will be so different from his predecessor’s, as “Crude Profits” explains.

CFOs who have lived through previous downturns know that extra vigilance is required. In times like these their companies are more vulnerable than ever to the dangers of employees bending the rules or even committing outright fraud when under pressure to do whatever it takes to hit the numbers. But are today’s corporate ethics policies robust enough to weather the storm? Most aren’t, concludes the feature “More Than Words” which catches up with several ethics experts to provide readers with timely advice for keeping their companies on the right side of the law.

Coverage of the financial crisis wouldn’t be complete without a hard look at how the banks are coping, and the impact on CFOs. To this end, an extensive Banking & Finance special report starts with “Now What?” With banks failing right, left and centre, CFOs may be singing the blues before long.

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