Business

CFO Outlook: Politics Edition

Leading DFW financial executives weigh in on the potential business impact of the 2020 Presidential election.

As the North Texas region continues to experience economic stability and growth, everyone is asking: when will the upswing end, and what does the future hold?

On Tuesday, D CEO hosted its annual CFO Outlook at the Communities Foundation of Texas to get insights from leading chief financial officers. Panelists included Earthbound Trading Co.’s CFO, Sam Cheng; American Airlines Vice President and CFO, Derek Kerr; VARIDESK CFO Craig Storey, and Debbie Wood, CFO of Square1 Restaurants., which has 43 Dairy Queen restaurants in Texas. They represented a variety of industries and company sizes in various stages of growth—a microcosm of the local economy.

The CFO’s talked about how their roles have evolved over the years (they’re not bean counters anymore), what keeps them up at night (tariffs), and how they think the region will fare should a recession hit. When given a chance to pose questions, one audience member asked: “What are you thinking about the election, and how will it impact your business?” Here’s what they had to say:

Derek Kerr
American Airlines VP and CFO

“I don’t think it will impact our business at all (from a passenger perspective). From a regulatory perspective, it could. The biggest regulatory issues with customers are coming up more from the Democratic side.”

Sam Cheng
Earthbound Trading Co CFO

“We get a lot of products from China and India (and if Trump wins), the tariffs would impact us. I don’t think it’s reality, but I hear Bernie (Sanders) keep talking about “we’re gonna do healthcare for everyone.” He doesn’t have a plan on how we’re going to pay for it, but it scares me when he even says we’re gonna do healthcare for everyone. And then I hear Elizabeth Warren talking about “when I become president, day one, we’re going to forget about everyone’s student loans.” It makes me laugh. Being an accountant, (I wonder) where that (money) is going to come from. That costs money. Who is going to pay for that? As a retailer, that’s going to affect our business.”

Craig Storey
VARIDESK CFO

“Ultimately, I don’t think it’s going to have a major impact. Conversation can feed on itself and create unnecessary fear in the markets. There’s a couple of election triggers. … One is this whole China tariff thing. We manufacture a lot in Asia. A portion of our manufacturing happens in China. Obviously, our business has been impacted by that. We made a cautious choice not to pass that increase off to our consumers. It would be beneficial to us, obviously, if President Trump negotiated out of these remaining tariffs. As we head into the election cycle, that’s one big lever that he can move, and we expect him to.”

Debbie Wood
Square1 Restaurants CFO

“Our industry would only be impacted if there was a Democrat sweep of (the) White House Senate and House. … There was an issue with the National Labor Relations Board that basically went away in the last year called “Joint Employer.” As a franchisee/franchisor, one of the key factors that make that work is you do have a separation of duties, and it’s up to the franchisee to hire the employees, manage the employees, fire the employees. The concept of joint employer blurs that line and, in essence, would allow an employee of a franchisee to go after the franchisor if there were any issues. Once you start blurring those lines, then you have to ask yourself, can the franchisee/franchisor model survive in that type of environment?”

Be watching D CEO for a full report on the CFO Outlook panel.

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