Deloitte CFO Survey: Slight improvement in sentiment, yet prospects for Swiss economy and businesses remain bleak
CFOs look to protect competitiveness via cutting costs and boosting innovation
Zurich, 26 July 2015
82% of Swiss companies are looking to cut personnel expenditure in response to the higher costs resulting from the ongoing strength of the Swiss Franc. Monetary, geopolitical and regulatory risks remain at the top of the agenda, as CFOs continue to rate economic and financial uncertainty very high this quarter. Following the major drop in confidence in the first quarter of the year, there are though some signs of receding pessimism – though the road to recovery will be rocky, according to the latest Deloitte CFO Survey.
The mood among the 111 Swiss CFOs surveyed in the Q2 2015 edition of the Deloitte CFO Survey remains gloomy. A majority of survey respondents (41%) rate Switzerland’s economic prospects over the next twelve months as negative. However, this number is down compared to last quarter (60%). This trend is mirrored in CFOs’ expectations of a recession: one in four (25%) expect Switzerland to face a recession over the next two years, down from more than a third (36%) in Q1.
Michael Grampp, Chief Economist at Deloitte in Switzerland, states: “This slight improvement only partially offsets the substantial decline in confidence seen that we saw in the first quarter of 2015. This will be a difficult year for the Swiss economy, even though a deep recession will likely be avoided.”
Similar gloomy story for business prospects
Though slightly more optimistic than in the previous quarter, business expectations remain negative. A majority of CFOs expect revenues (53%) and operating margins (73%) to fall over the next year. Swiss businesses are still adapting to the fallout from the removal of the exchange rate floor in January 2015, and uncertainty lingers. A large majority of CFOs (75%) continue to rate the level of uncertainty in the current economic and financial environment as very high, only slightly down from Q1 (80%).
When it comes to factors that pose a challenge to companies, all eyes are on external risks: The strength of the Swiss Franc (70%) remains on top of CFOs’ agendas, followed by geopolitical risks (59%) and increasing business regulation (52%). With the exception of deterioration of cash flow (47%), internal risks are not perceived as major in the current environment.
Increasing competitiveness a central business priority
Companies are thus acting cautiously when it comes to expenditure, with CFOs expecting cuts in discretionary spending, planned capital expenditure and personnel. More than four in five companies (82%) plan to reduce personnel costs in the near future. “Against the backdrop of the ongoing strength of the Swiss Franc, measures to protect competitiveness are vital. This can translate in cost-cutting exercises such as personnel cutbacks and relocation of business activity, but companies can also use innovation as a way to improve competitiveness,” says Michael Grampp.
He adds: “56% of CFOs are planning to increase spending on innovation over the next three years, according to our survey. That is an encouraging number, although we will have to see even more companies acknowledging the importance of innovation and investing in new technologies in order to retain the high level of competitiveness that Swiss firms and the Swiss economy as a whole currently hold.”
Innovative information and communications technologies are seen as the most likely to be introduced over the course of the next five years. Sensoring, robotics and 3D printing are also proving somewhat popular, whereas only few companies are planning to introduce some of the latest technologies such as drones or neurotechnology applications.
About the Deloitte CFO Survey
Each quarter, Deloitte in Switzerland conducts a Survey of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and Group Financial Directors. The Survey gauges their attitudes towards to outlook for business, financing, risk and strategies, and is designed to identify trends and key themes in the Swiss corporate sector. The Q2 2015 edition was conducted between 26 May and 22 June 2015, with a total of 111 CFOs participating. They represent both listed companies and large private companies from all relevant industries. The CFO Survey is the only of its kind in Switzerland. Deloitte conducts similar CFO surveys in more than 30 countries.
About Deloitte in Switzerland
Deloitte is a leading accounting and consulting company in Switzerland and provides industry-specific services in the areas of audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory. With approximately 1,400 employees at six locations in Basel, Berne, Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano and Zurich (headquarters), Deloitte serves companies and institutions of all legal forms and sizes in all industry sectors. Deloitte AG is a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP, the UK member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL). DTTL member firms comprise of approximately 210,000 employees in more than 150 countries around the world.
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