CFO Sentiment | Edition 10

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CFO Sentiment | Edition 10

Confidence bounces back

Australian CFO optimism has bounced back from a severe COVID-induced shock, with the strength of the country’s economic recovery supporting a return to more positive sentiment after the confronting year that was 2020.

As we begin a new year more than 70% of CFOs are feeling optimistic, or even highly optimistic, about the financial prospects of their companies, and more than half are even willing to take more risk onto their balance sheets. But they also appreciate that challenges remain, particularly as COVID restrictions such as border closures impact some sectors more than others.

According to the latest edition of Deloitte’s biannual CFO Sentiment survey, and covering the second half of 2020:

  • 62% of CFOs are feeling optimistic about the financial prospects of their company, and a further 13% are highly optimistic
  • Net optimism compared to six months ago has increased significantly – to positive 62% from negative 30% - the biggest bounce in the survey’s history
  • Net uncertainty about economic conditions was 87%, only slightly lower than the record 92% from mid-2020
  • 54% think Australian businesses are optimally geared, while 27% think they are under-geared
  • 65% see environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), including climate change considerations, as important when it comes to most parts of their business, and 49% see value creation potential in the longer term
  • 71% expect their M&A activity to increase over the next 12 months, with a focus on acquisitions
  • Flexible working (62%) and digital opportunities (55%) are top business recovery priorities for 2021.

Deloitte partner, and CFO Program leader, Stephen Gustafson, said: “It goes without saying that the year 2020 was a rollercoaster for Australia’s economy, for business, and for our communities, and for each and every one of us.

“When we surveyed Australian CFOs in early 2020, and before the reality of a global pandemic had hit at all, there was evidence of a positive turning point for business sentiment. When we went back to them in mid-2020 things had, not surprisingly, changed significantly. The COVID-induced global economic downturn, and Australia’s first recession in nearly 30 years, struck the country, and CFO optimism, hard.

“They were under no illusions that there would be major challenges to confront, but also that those challenges would present opportunities for those who had built true resilience and agility into their businesses.

“But 2021 points to a marked shift in Australia’s economic performance and a fairly remarkable V-shaped recovery. With nine out of ten jobs lost through the pandemic already returned, and consumer confidence at a decade-long high, it’s perhaps no real surprise that Australian CFOs have their mojo back.

“That doesn’t mean the pandemic no longer poses risks to the economic outlook, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all recovery – tourism and accommodation and international education, for example, remain severely impacted by border closures. But Australia is one of only a handful of nations that can lay claim to entering 2021 well-placed, and positive CFO sentiment is significantly up on the back of this.”

CFO Sentiment | Edition 10
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