European CFO Survey Spring 2020
A perspective on COVID-19
Confidence across European businesses has taken a major hit in recent months, according to our latest European CFO Survey.
The Deloitte European CFO Survey
About 1,000 CFOs in 18 countries participated, providing an overview of business sentiment and expectations for investments and hiring across Europe, each edition focuses on a topical issue. The Spring 2020 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. Participating countries were Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The forced slow-down of economic activity has added to the already heightened concerns about the European economy. On average, 63 per cent of CFOs report in March 2020 that they are less optimistic about the financial prospects for their company, an increase of almost 30 percentage points in six months, and by far the highest share since the beginning of the series in 2015.
As the health crisis unfolded and more and more countries in Europe implemented increasingly restrictive measures, the share of executives reporting to feel less optimistic increased substantially week after week.
Will this recession drag on, or be short-lived? European companies seem to be preparing for a rather gradual recovery of their business, spread over a longer term:
- Almost 80 per cent of the respondents expect the pandemic to have a negative effect on the revenues of their company well into the autumn
- one in three expect a double digit decline in the next six months
- longer-term expectations are only slightly more positive:
- 10 per cent of the respondents foresee a strong decrease in revenues well into next year
- almost 30 per cent think that revenues will be at the same level as forecasted before the outbreak
- more than half still expect the negative effects of the pandemic to stretch into 2021.
The outlook for investments and hiring darkens
Subdued business expectations mean companies are downgrading their investment and hiring plans.
- 41 per cent of CFOs plan to reduce their capital expenditures, twice as many as the 20 per cent who plan to increase them
- 38 per cent of respondents foresee a decrease in the number of their employees over the next 12 months, against 21 per cent expecting an increase.
Companies focus on liquidity, working arrangements and communication plans
To steer their companies in these uncharted waters, companies are prioritising short-term reactive measures.
- 74 per cent of CFOs report that they are cutting spending in response to the crisis
- 66 per cent of CFOs are prioritising the setup of alternative working arrangements, while reworking communication plans is the third focus area, prioritised by 35 per cent of businesses
- During the data collection period, the share of respondents reporting to be prioritising the establishment of new credit lines more than quadrupled – though from a lower base.
Autumn 2019 edition
The results of the tenth European CFO Survey reveal a widespread negative mood, with a decline in the majority of the indexes measuring business confidence and expectations. Weak business sentiment has resulted in a lower willingness to invest or add to their workforce across the board, and weakening demand is the main concern across the board. The report also explores to what extent companies are feeling the pressure to act on climate change.
What Europe’s leading CFOs are telling us:
- General business sentiment is at a historic low in this edition: CFOs feeling less optimistic about the financial prospects of their companies outnumber those feeling more optimistic by almost 2 to 1, while expectations on the evolution of revenues and margins fell to their lowest since the survey began
- Disruption in global trade and related increase in uncertainty seem to be at the heart of the deterioration in sentiment. The negative mood is concentrated in industries that are more export-oriented and embedded in global value chains
- Companies across Europe have also turned bearish when it comes to investment decisions. For the first time since the beginning of the survey, the net balance of intentions on capital expenditure (CAPEX) turned negative, as slightly more CFOs plan a reduction rather than an increase in CAPEX over the next 12 months
- The main concern for CFOs is weakening demand: Shortages in skilled labour are now less in focus – though they continue to be seen as one of the top risks. As well, over the past two editions of the European CFO Survey, there has been a rapid increase in the number of countries where CFOs named weaker demand as the top risk, and is now the factor named most often
- Companies feel the pressure to act on climate change; particularly larger companies, where the pressure is coming from their clients and customers. Many companies are also taking action, mainly focusing on increasing energy efficiency and adopting climate-friendly equipment. Few however, are taking a strategic approach when dealing with this issue.
Climate Change: Irish CFOs Remiss on Emissions
As part of the European Survey of 1,500 CFOs, a select group of large organisations from Ireland participated. Similar to other European countries, the forecast is gloomy and climate action is low on the list of priorities despite the demands from shareholders, clients and consumers, and employees. The survey shows that Irish companies are prioritising defensive strategies to deal with the challenging economic conditions, with cost cutting and organic growth the top priorities for Irish businesses over the next 12 months. The top three concerns for Irish CFOs are geopolitical risks, economic outlook, and a shortage of skilled professionals.
European CFO Survey Spring 2019
Irish CFOs depart from the European decreased capex and hiring trend
Expected capital spending and hiring in the next 12 months continues to decline across Europe, but not so in Ireland, according to those who took part in our CFO survey this spring. Increased capital expenditure in the next 12 months is anticipated by 68% of Irish CFOs (64% in H2 2018). 65% of Irish CFOs also expect to increase employee numbers in the next 12 months, an increase from 58% in our previous survey. Revenue growth is predicted with 84% of Irish CFOs expecting increased revenue growth over the next 12 months (74% in H2 2018).
Highlights from the H1 2019 Ireland CFO Survey:
- 68% of CFOs anticipate an increase in capital expenditure over the next 12 months, an increase from H2 2018 (64%).
- 65% of CFOs expect to increase employee numbers, an increase, up from 58% in H2 2018.
- 84% of CFOs expect to achieve revenue growth over the next 12 months, an increase from H2 2018 (74%).
- CFOs reporting a high level of external financial and economic uncertainty is at 58%, down from 71% in H2 2018.
- Geopolitical risks, economic outlook, and shortage of skilled professionals are the top 3 concerns facing Irish CFOs
- 33% of CFOs are more optimistic compared to six months ago; however, 42% of CFOs were more optimistic six months prior.
- Cost control and organic growth are the top two strategic priorities for CFOs in 2019.
About the European CFO Survey
Since 2015, the European CFO survey has brought together the views of CFOs from +/- 20 European countries, providing an overview of CFO’s hiring and investment intentions, their opinions on the business outlook, critical risks, strategic priorities and factors they consider vital for success.
With 1,500 CFOs participating in this edition, the European CFO survey has established itself as one of the largest regularly occurring C-Suite surveys in Europe. The survey has been recognised by clients, academics, business associations and policy makers alike.
Countries have included: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.