Finance executives appear less optimistic in their economic projections than recent headlines might suggest. While a number of analysts have pointed to a major reduction in unemployment, improving credit markets and gains in manufacturing as proof of a stronger recovery, conditions may actually be more difficult. According to a survey released Monday by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, only 38 percent of surveyed CFOs expect the U.S. economy to expand in 2012. Last year, 56 percent of respondents expressed such optimism for 2011, down from 66 percent the year before that. Financial officers were considerably more optimistic in regards to hiring plans, with more than nine in 10 citing plan to either add to or maintain current staff levels. "Without question, many CFOs are hoping for more positive signs of consistent economic stability and growth - in the U.S. and abroad," said Laura Whitley, head of global commercial banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "While they remain cautious, it is encouraging to see that reservations about the economy won't translate to reductions in the overall workforce." Finance institutions should also leverage consumer credit risk management strategies to inform their lending and credit decisions.