2013 Q1 – CFO Survey
Against a backdrop of continued economic uncertainty, 49% of the 63 CFOs participating expect their organisation’s headcount to fall by 2014, with 11% predicting a workforce reduction of over 5%. Optimism levels have dropped, the business climate remains unpredictable and a quarter of CFOs do not expect growth to return before 2015. Defensive strategies remain the dominant theme.
“Demand remains depressed and financial results continue to fall short of expectations. Businesses are above all constrained by low growth and uncertainty, rather than access to capital.”
Thierry Van Schoubroeck, Managing Partner Consulting
The survey shows the top priority for Belgian CFOs in the coming 12 months is to increase productivity and efficiency, followed closely by that of reducing costs. This strong appetite for change follows a first quarter in which 57% of organisations performed worse than expected. In their drive for increased competitiveness, close to 60% of businesses with a turnover over €100 million expect to cut headcount by the end of 2014. Of businesses under €100 million, 38% predict workforce reductions.
The first quarter has seen a significant increase in CFOs’ negativity towards the Belgian government’s approach to financial and economic policy making. Perception moved from -20% in Q4 2012 to -52% in Q1 2013, with only a small number reporting a positive attitude.
The top concern of Belgian CFOs is the economic recovery, or rather, its absence. While some have positive, albeit moderate, growth expectations for Belgium in 2013, the vast majority expect growth anywhere in the range between -1% and 0.1%, with many concerned that the movement will be negative.
2013 Q1 key points
- The slow economic recovery is the CFO’s dominant concern and this continues to drive the overall pessimistic mood. No recovery is expected this year, and a quarter of CFOs do not expect the Belgian economy to start growing again before 2015.
- The current business climate remains negative and even unpredictable in the short term: over half of surveyed organisations have not been able to meet their financial budget in the first quarter.
- Efficiency improvement and cost reduction are important priorities for most CFOs to remain competitive. For existing organisations the balance between job creation and job destruction risks turning negative next year. Following all that has already been done in the past, half of the surveyed organisations plan to further reduce headcount.
- CFOs have not completely closed the door to growth: emerging markets and secular growth are the main drivers of investment. Low expected growth in Belgium and the Eurozone area provide little stimulus for investment.
- The government’s financial and economic policy is seen as inappropriate. CFOs are particularly negative about the government’s labour market and taxation policies. Lowering the social contribution by the employers and reforming the wage indexation mechanism are said to have the largest positive impact on businesses.
- External financing is attractive, although over one third of CFOs report bank borrowing is still hard to get. Businesses are above all constrained by low growth and uncertainty rather than access to capital.
About the CFO Survey
The Deloitte CFO survey is the only survey of major corporate users of capital which gauges the attitudes of the CFO towards valuations, risks and financing. The survey, which takes place every quarter, brings the views of CFOs to a wide audience in the media and among policy makers. Most importantly we believe that the survey is a valuable benchmark for CFOs in gauging the views of their peers.