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European CFO Survey Autumn 2020

More K than V: a patchy recovery

The twelfth edition of the European CFO Survey focuses on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting in particular on current revenue expectations and employment plans and the investment areas that businesses across Europe are prioritising.

The pandemic is reshaping economies in fundamental ways, so are CFOs optimistic that there are brighter days ahead?

The data for the Autumn 2020 edition was collected in September 2020 and garnered responses from 1,578 CFOs from a wide range of industries in 18 countries: Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.

European CFO Survey: More K than V: a patchy recovery

Autumn 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and amplified underlying structural change – in supply chains, trade and technology. Businesses need to acknowledge and embrace these changes, reassess their goals and adapt their strategies if they want not just to survive in the post-pandemic world, but thrive in it.

Key highlights from the European CFO Survey Autumn 2020

Economic activity in Europe picked up rapidly over the summer following the extraordinary measures put in place to counter the spread of COVID-19. With that, CFO optimism has improved following the record lows of earlier this year:

  • Half the CFOs surveyed – five times as many as in March – said they feel more optimistic than three months ago about the financial prospects for their company
  • Yet, despite increased revenue expectations reflecting the overall improved mood in Europe, most businesses have yet to return to their pre-pandemic level


The upturn in confidence cannot mask the fact that the crisis has inflicted a heavy blow and the road to recovery looks long:

  • A clear divide emerges when we look at sectors: transport and logistics, and industrial products and services view the future more confidently now than they did three months ago, whereas almost half of CFOs in tourism and travel are much less optimistic than they were three months ago.
  • 23 per cent of businesses are operating at or above their pre-COVID level, but 44 per cent expect to return to pre-crisis levels only in a year’s time at the earliest
  • While sentiment has improved, business leaders remain concerned about the solidity of the recovery. A weakening in demand remains one of the top three concerns in two-thirds of the countries surveyed
  • The number of CFOs who foresee a decline in their workforce has dropped, but only slightly since March. A resurgence in infections forcing new local restrictions could lead to more layoffs and thus a drop in domestic demand.
     

Investment intentions remain subdued across the region, with almost 40 per cent of CFOs planning to reduce capital expenditures over the next twelve months and only 13 per cent plan to invest in tangible assets such as physical infrastructure, machinery and equipment

  • However, the pandemic has accelerated the rise of the digital economy. Businesses in Europe are making efforts to complete their digital transformation, and 60 percent of CFOs say they plan to invest more in automation, software, data and IT networks
  • “Digitisation” is named as one of the top three strategic priorities in almost half the countries – whereas only one year ago that was the case in just one fifth of them.

View the data country-by-country on our interactive dashboard below.

The Deloitte European CFO Survey

Since 2015, Deloitte has conducted the European CFO survey, giving voice twice a year to senior financial executives from across Europe, providing an overview of business sentiment and expectations for investments and hiring.

Each edition focuses on a topical issue. This edition asked CFOs about the expected effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on revenues in the short and medium term, as well as the actions taken in reaction.

European CFO Survey: More K than V - a patchy recovery

Previous editions

European CFO Survey - Spring 2020
A perspective on COVID-19

European CFO Survey - Autumn 2019
Into the woods

European CFO Survey - Spring 2019
Eyes on demand

European CFO Survey - Autumn 2018
Winter is coming

European CFO Survey - Spring 2018
Undeterred by uncertainty

European CFO Survey - Autumn 2017
CFOs switch focus to the longer term

European CFO Survey - Spring 2017
Recovery continues

European CFO Survey - Autumn 2016
Growth prospects in an uncertain world

European CFO Survey - Spring 2016
Politics takes centre stage

European CFO Survey - Autumn 2015
Confidence heads South

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