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CIT Survey: Most Middle Market Executives Report Stronger Companies

Despite continuing overall economic concerns, more than half of middle market executives, some 53%, say that their companies are stronger today than before the Great Recession, according to a CIT Group survey released this week. In the survey— “CIT Voice of the Middle Market: Perspectives from the Heart of America’s Economy”— the majority of middle market executives also report that, during the next 12 months, their companies are likely to: increase the range of products and services they offer in current markets, 65%, expand into adjacent markets, 58%, and enter other geographic regions, 54%.

In addition, 42% of middle-market leaders also expect to expand their workforce in the coming year. 

“Middle market companies have long been the backbone of the U.S. economy, employing tens of millions of Americans and generating trillions in revenue annually,” said John Thain, CIT’s chairman and CEO. “At CIT, we recognize the importance of these companies and have been dedicated to providing lending, leasing, and advisory services to the middle market for more than 100 years. This research is another extension of our commitment to this critical group of companies, exploring their views and perspectives on important issues affecting them today.”

Thain is scheduled to appear live on CNBC’s The Closing Bell this afternoon, September 27, at 4:10 p.m. to discuss the report. CIT rang The Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange 9:30 a.m. eastern daylight time this morning, and NYC Mayor Bloomberg declared today “CIT Middle Market Day” in New York City.

According to the research, a vast majority of middle market executives agree that middle market companies are: job creators, at 97%, barometers of the United States. economy, at 95%, and drivers of innovation at 91%.

The online survey was conducted by KRC Research among 300 U.S. middle market executives who represented a range of industries. To participate in the survey, respondents had to be in a leadership role at a firm with revenues was between $25 million and $1 billion and with a majority of employees based in the U.S. Dr. Arnoldo Hax, Alfred Sloan professor of management emeritus and a professor of Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, provided guidance and insights throughout the research process.

“Although they might often be overlooked for more blue chip companies, the middle market is a critical component of the U.S. economy today,” said Dr. Hax. “The factors that are explored in this research study are of great centrality for every company, but they are particularly critical for the middle market, given the imperative that relies upon them to achieve success.”

Other Key Findings

Financing an Area of Satisfaction. Eight in 10 middle market executives report that they are satisfied with their company’s access to financing, as well as the cost of financing for their company. Most also say that they are satisfied with the variety of financing alternatives available to their company at 79%.

Impact of the Presidential Election. The vast majority of middle market executives, 81%, say that the outcome of the presidential election will have an impact on the health of the economy, with 38% saying it will have a major impact. Some 71% say that the presidential candidates spend too little time talking about the middle market.

Federal Regulation a Concern, along with Economic Uncertainty and Talent Management. Looking ahead to the next 12 months, 83% middle market executives express concern about continued economic uncertainty at the national level. They also worry about talent management— the ability to retain top talent, 59%, and to hire top talent, 55%. More than half, at 56%, are concerned about compliance with federal regulations, and healthcare reform tops the list of existing or pending federal legislation or regulation that they believe could have the greatest impact on their companies.

Room for Improvement in Strategic Management. Many middle market companies seem to fall short on their strategic management capacity, according to the CIT survey. Based on the findings of the study and questions about company strategy, organization structure, effectiveness of business units, measuring and rewarding performance, and organizational culture, researchers developed an index to rate the management capacity of middle market companies. According to this index, only 26% of middle market executives represent companies that have strong strategic management. In fact, just one third of executives surveyed say that their company has in place a clear strategy that was reached by a consensus of key executives, that has been communicated and that addresses short- and long-term issues. Almost one in four say that their company’s strategy has not been communicated or that their company has no clear strategy in place.