Last July, as IBM Vice President of Investor Relations Patricia Murphy prepared to introduce the company's CFO, Mark Loughridge, at the start of the technology giant's 2Q earnings call, she once more issued the boilerplate disclaimer intended to shield the company from liability for forward-looking comments.
"Let me remind you that certain comments made in this presentation may be characterized as forward-looking. ...Those statements involve a number of factors that could cause actual results to differ materially," cautioned Murphy, repeating the requisite disclosure statement dispatched by top IR executives everywhere.
However, in the case of IBM -- and the world of finance at large -- the act of hitching rescue lines to forward-looking statements underscores the irony of being a CFO these days: Finance leaders remain tethered to the past even as they are implored to explore the future.
Today, in the wake of the downturn's surprise bite and in an economy that leaves no hint as to what's around the next turn, finance has been handed an urgent edict to stop spending so much time reporting what's already occurred and to start informing management about what's yet to happen.