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Deloitte’s European CFO Survey: Despite uncertainty, CFOs remain confident of long-term growth

Zurich, 15 November 2016

  • Optimism remains flat and uncertainty remains high among Europe’s CFOs, while optimism is rising in Switzerland
  • CFOs however remain confident businesses can weather uncertainties and grow
  • 37% of European CFOs say Brexit negotiations will be bad for business, with concerns around regulation, mobility and trade barriers

Despite continued uncertainty and concerns about the economic and business environment, Europe’s chief financial officers (CFOs) remain optimistic about the potential for their businesses in the coming year, according to Deloitte’s latest European CFO Survey. Deloitte has collated the results of surveys run by its member firms in 17 European countries for the Q3 2016 European CFO Survey, giving the views of 1,148 CFOs, including 111 in Switzerland (see the Deloitte CFO Survey Switzerland, published 31 October 2016, for more information).

Uncertainty remains elevated

Two thirds (67%) of Europe’s CFOs say that there is a high level of financial and economic uncertainty facing their business, slightly lower than in Q1 (66%). These perceptions are highest in the UK and Germany (88%) and lowest in Finland (36%). Switzerland is slightly lower than the European average, at 63% uncertainty, having seen a fall of 6 percentage points since Q1 with the exchange rate shock slowly fading.

CFOs still positive on revenue growth

When asked how they feel about financial prospects for their company compared to three to six months ago, 26% say that they are more optimistic, slightly up from 25% in Q1. The optimism is lowest in the UK, following the Brexit referendum, at just 16%. The highest levels of optimism came from Swedish CFOs with 44%. Swiss CFOs report slightly above average optimism (27%).

However, despite high uncertainty and low risk appetite, 65% of CFOs say they expect their company’s revenues to grow in the next 12 months, up from 63% (Switzerland Q3: 64%). 46% of UK CFOs say they expected revenues to increase, the lowest across all countries, while 83% of Polish CFOs forecast revenue growth, the highest.

Michael Grampp, Chief Economist at Deloitte in Switzerland, said: “Despite the difficult business environment, CFOs are confident that their business can cope and see growth over the next 12 months. In part, this is down to businesses being better acquainted with an uncertain landscape, having operated in one for some time now. But it also shows the underlying resilience of Europe’s corporate sector, which has endured years of slow growth and shocks but started to show singes of a more sustained recovery this year. European GDP growth is forecast to be 1.6% this year, while low that would still be the third consecutive year of growth for Europe, the first time that has been achieved since the financial crisis.”

Brexit and political risk

37% of CFOs said that the negotiations on the UK leaving the European Union will have a negative effect on their business, 50% said it will have no impact while 5% say it will be positive. Negative sentiment is highest in the UK, where 65% believe Brexit negotiations will be bad for business, but also caused concern among CFOs in Portugal (52%), the Netherlands and Ireland (both 48%). Concern is somewhat lower in Switzerland, but at 23% still noticeable.

CFOs were also asked which aspect of a potential Brexit will most affect their businesses, and respondents in 14 countries said that increased complexity and cost of regulations would have the largest impact. Restrictions in workforce mobility and decreased export opportunities due to non-tariff barriers were also cited.

Overall, in nine countries responding, geopolitical and economic uncertainty was listed as the top risk facing business over the next year, while weak domestic demand was cited as the top risk in four countries. Both also feature highly in Switzerland, while currency risk is most often mentioned and monetary risks and regulation are high on the agenda as well.

Michael Grampp said: “Businesses across Europe have contended with a number of political shocks over the summer, reflected in high levels of uncertainty. Brexit features prominently among these shocks, with over one-third of Europe’s CFOs saying the negotiations on the UK leaving the EU will have a negative impact on their business. Concerns around regulatory change are the biggest concern but curbs on workforce mobility and export opportunities are also cited as risks to European businesses.”

“However, Brexit is not Europe’s only concern. Political uncertainties of varying degrees, from Spain to Turkey, upcoming elections in France and Germany and now, of course, the outcome of the US elections, weigh on the minds of business leaders.”

European CFO survey Q3 2016

View the full results

Download the report

About the Deloitte CFO Survey

This is the fourth biannual Deloitte European CFO Survey. The Survey collates the findings of surveys conducted by Deloitte member firms in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom. In total, 1,148 CFOs took part in these surveys, conducted between August and October 2016. Percentages used in the report are weighted by GDP to provide accurate comparisons, taking into account individual countries’ GDPs in relation to the total GDP of the 17 participating countries.

The full survey results, including country-by-country breakdowns, and previous surveys are available to view at www.deloitteresearchemea.com

About Deloitte in Switzerland

Deloitte is a leading accounting and consulting company in Switzerland and provides industry-specific services in the areas of Audit & Risk Advisory, Consulting, Financial Advisory and Tax & Legal. With more than 1,700 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 over 244,400 employees in more than 150 countries.

Note to editors

In this news release, Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), a UK private company limited by guarantee, whose member firms are legally separate and independent entities. Please see www.deloitte.com/ch/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

Deloitte AG is a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP, the United Kingdom member firm of DTTL. Deloitte AG is an audit firm recognised and supervised by the Federal Audit Oversight Authority (FAOA) and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).

The information contained in this news release is correct at the time of issuance.

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