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Deloitte CFO Survey: Swiss economic and business prospects stabilise
Strong franc continues to cause concern, but EUR/CHF 1.10 becomes less terrifying for Swiss companies
Zurich, 26 October 2015
After the significant mood slump following the franc shock in the beginning of the year, the Deloitte CFO Survey for Q3 2015 reveals that the prospects for the Swiss economy have stabilised. More than a third (37%) of Swiss Chief Financial Officers surveyed still consider the economic outlook for the next 12 months to be negative. However, the trend is an upward one. Swiss businesses appear to have accepted the new reality, and to have gradually adjusted to the exchange rate appreciation.
The 110 CFOs surveyed rated the prospects for the Swiss economy as slightly better in the third quarter of 2015 than in the previous quarter. However, the majority still rate the outlook as negative: 26% are optimistic (16% in Q2), and 37% are pessimistic (41% in Q2). This results in a net balance of -11%, which confirms the slight upward trend already observed in the previous quarter. Fears of a recession remain at the same level: One quarter (25%) of Swiss CFOs currently expect a recession in the next two years.
"Although the economic outlooks are still dampened, the overall mood appears to have brightened in the last two quarters. Swiss companies observed the weakening of the Swiss franc in recent weeks with relief. However, there are still uncertainties – not least due to growth fears in China and other emerging nations, as well as the persistent strength of the franc," comments Michael Grampp, Chief Economist at Deloitte in Switzerland.
EUR/CHF 1.10 is the ‘new’ EUR/CHF 1.20
The effects of an exchange rate of EUR/CHF 1.20 are considered much less negative this quarter compared to this time last year. Only around one tenth of CFOs currently consider this exchange rate to be a disadvantage for their own businesses. The assessment of a 1.10 rate has also considerably shifted. While it was still considered a significant disadvantage a year ago, it is currently seen only as a minor one: approximately one third of those surveyed considered 1.10 to be neutral; and only about one fifth saw this as a disadvantage to their own businesses. "Since the franc shock last January, the majority of Swiss businesses now seem to have adjusted to the appreciation in the exchange rate," explains Grampp.
Strong franc remains the biggest business risk – skills shortage also considerable
When asked about the greatest risks to their businesses, CFOs name external risks above all: more than two thirds of CFOs (67%; -3% when compared with the previous quarter) consider the strength of the franc as their greatest business risk. Increasing regulation in Switzerland (61%; +9%) and geopolitical risks (59%; +0%) are also considered significant.
When it comes to internal risks, the majority of CFOs surveyed (53%) rated one factor as particularly crucial for the next year: that of a skills shortage. Michael Grampp comments: "At first glance, this number may be surprising since businesses are currently keeping a very close eye on costs, particularly when it comes to personnel costs. However, having the right employees is a key competitive factor for Swiss businesses in the current environment. This makes it all the more important that they continuously focus on recruiting and retaining highly qualified staff."
A high level of uncertainty defines businesses' strategic alignment
A large majority of Swiss CFOs (75%) still consider the current level of economic and financial uncertainty to be high. It is unsurprising that cost control and reduction remain at the top of the agenda for many Chief Financial Officers. But there are also signs that confirm the slight upward trend in mood: a substantial number of those surveyed (41%) express increasing investment intentions. In addition, the majority (65%) see launching new products and services as an important strategy in the next twelve months.
About the Deloitte CFO Survey
Each quarter, Deloitte in Switzerland conducts a survey amongst Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and Group Financial Directors. The survey gauges their attitudes towards to outlook for business, financing, risk and strategies, and identifies trends and key themes in the Swiss corporate sector. The Q3 2015 edition was conducted between 25 August and 18 September 2015, with a total of 110 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.
The full results of the Deloitte CFO Survey are available online.
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 more than 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 over 225,000 employees in more than 150 countries.
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