European Economic Policy Forum II

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European Economic Policy Forum II

Eurozone financial directors’ enthusiasm sufferes a setback and fell to 8%

The results of the autumn edition of the Deloitte CFO Survey were presented at the European Parliament

Key Findings

  • 39% of the Eurozone CFOs intend to continue to invest during the next 12 months
  • The uncertainty of the Italian CFOs towards the future reaches 63%, the highest level since the beginning of the surveys in 2015
  • The “appropriate technical knowledge” is the skill that the majority of CFOs (40%) across Europe find most difficult to find
  • To address talent shortages, European companies pursue automation (43%) and try to offer a more attractive working environment (40%)
  • Digitization becomes the second most important strategy for next year for 34% of Italian CFOs

Bruxelles, October 17th 2018 – The new edition of the European Economic Policy Forum was held today at the European Parliament. This project stems from the partnership of the Italian Public Policy Program of Deloitte DCM with Confindustria and the Italian Initiative Group of Brussels. This year the forum has been enhanced by the collaboration of Deloitte Germany and BDI.

During the forum, the main trends emerged from the past editions of the CFO Survey and the highlights of the latest Autumn 2018 edition were presented to Brussels’ institutional, economic and public affairs community.

What emerges from the survey is a significantly changed picture compared to only six months ago. The climate of extreme enthusiasm of the EMEA CFOs that characterized 2017 suffered a setback at the beginning of 2018, mainly due to the introduction of protectionist policies and the political instability that is still affecting Europe.

Uncertainty rises and optimism drops

CFOs’ sentiment across the Eurozone turns very low. The net balance of CFOs feeling more optimistic about the financial prospects of their company drops significantly compared to the beginning of the year (-27pp) reaching 8%.

After a positive start of the year, the sentiment of the Italian CFOs is strongly affected by the changes that have taken place in recent months in the local and foreign political and economic context. In the second half of 2018 Italian CFOs optimism reaches its lowest: -4% (-29 pp compared to the first half of the year).

The situation is so tense that even the uncertainty regarding the future of Italian companies reaches a peak of 63%, the highest level since the beginning of the survey in 2015.

There are many risks but the willingness to invest remains strong

A positive sign is represented by the investment intentions: although the intentions of the Eurozone CFOs towards CAPEX have declined since last spring (-8pp), 39% of CFOs continue to expect to increase investment over the next 12 months. Thus, even if the mood is cooling and CFOs are less bullish than six months ago, we are far from experiencing tanking economies.

Also in Italy, CAPEX intentions have just a small decline (-12pp) with respect to to last spring: 29% of Italian CFOs want to increase investments over the next year. In particular, they want to invest in their companies’ digitization, which is the second most voted strategy to adopt for the next 12 months. 

Hard skills are the most difficult to find on average across Europe

The “appropriate technical knowledge” is the skill that the majority of CFOs (40%) across Europe find most difficult to find, followed by the “necessary work experience” (30%). One out of five CFOs consider “problem solving/adaptability” a difficult skill to find. These results mirrors the challenges that technological change present both to companies and the workforce. One the one hand side, technical, specific knowledge is required to stay ahead of the curve. On the other hand – as specific knowledge becomes obsolete at a very fast pace – companies search for workers with a high degree of mental adaptability.

European companies are following a multidimensional strategy

To address the shortages, European companies are following a multidimensional strategy. On the one hand side, they push forward with automation. 43% of CFOs report that they are using this strategy to a large extent. Interestingly, only 16% focus on outsourcing of business processes and even less (12%) on offshoring. Just few years ago, offshoring and outsourcing were the typical response of companies to bottlenecks in the labor market and rising costs. Today, the technology has progressed so much that it is increasingly more convenient for companies to relocate production back to Europe. On the other hand, CFOs report to be offering a more attractive working environment (40%), to use temporary resources (33%) and to retrain internal staff (31%). A very low share of CFOs (12%) report to recruit from different labour pools to address the skills shortages. In an ageing continent like Europe, failing to look at non-traditional pools might be a strategic mistake.

“While the Eurozone enjoys healthy economic growth, low inflation, declining unemployment and low borrowing costs, some analysts believe that the greatest risk for the Eurozone is the new Italian government and its new economic policy. Many investors fear that if Italy intends to proceed with the new economic program, there could be a conflict with the European Union and that would increase the already high uncertainty in our country. Meanwhile, the Italian business community is clearly concerned, as evidenced by the sharp decline in business confidence. Nonetheless, Italian CFOs continue to invest in order to adapt their companies to the new challenges posed by the future. In fact, Industry 4.0 and digitalization require a series of modernization actions that cannot be delayed any longer, in order not to be cut off from the competitive scenario of the next years.", comments Riccardo Raffo, Deloitte Partner and Italian CFO Program Lead. 

“Currently, growth in the Eurozone is mainly driven by a good performance of the labor market that translates into consumption growth. Even so, it is not hard to find potential risks that threaten the European economic recovery. Global trade conflicts, political clashes within the European Union, and the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit negotiations all have the potential to increase uncertainty in the region and derail the long yearned recovery in the medium term.  Yet, as long as the positive trends in labor markets and consumption continue, the Eurozone’s recovery looks fairly robust.” comments Rik Vanpeteghem, Regional Managing Director EMEA, Deloitte.

“This year’s recovery remains intact and solid, albeit not important as many expected. In fact, 2018 Eurozone growth dynamics are weaker, if compared to last year when the Eurozone grew at a record pace of 2.5 percent. This result is mainly due to a drop in industrial production and exports. They both developed very strongly in 2017, but have been significantly weaker this year, mainly because of a drop in exports. Therefore, it is very important to pay attention to the external political risks and to trade conflicts that affect primarily the exporting oriented manufacturing sector and that ultimately have impacts also on growth.” ends Gianmario Crescentino, Global Audit & Assurance Risk & Regulatory Leader, Deloitte.

Herman Van Rompuy, former European Council President, spoke during the dinner hosted by the Italian Ambassador at her residence the night before the conference and declared: “The ongoing ‘trade war’ with the US is lesser a threat to the Eurozone than to other countries. The EU is negotiating a deal, while the US seems to be focusing its attacks on China. They cannot fight on different fronts. Companies are anticipating an all-out war and let their investment decisions depend on this negative prospect. This behavior is weighing on our economies much more than the pure mechanical impact of tariffs. But we must preserve the sense of proportion: the IMF was particularly critical of the United States, saying that, if the US follows through on various threatened tariffs, long-term growth will decline by one percentage point per year in the US and by half a point globally. This is a material effect. But it looks less alarming in the context of a global economy that is expected to grow by more than 10% over the period until 2020. The IMF Chief Economist says that Eurozone would be one of least-affected regions, losing no more than 0.4% in worst-case scenario while US, China and emerging economies stand to lose the most. The message is that, even after the new measures, protectionism is likely to dent, but not derail world economic growth.”

European Economic Policy Forum II

Photogallery

Speakers

The speakers of the European Economic Policy have been:

H.E. Elena BasileItalian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium

Roberto Zangrandi - Secretary General of EDSO and President of GII

Roberto Viola – Director-General of DG CONNECT

Gianmario Crescentino - Deloitte Global Audit & Assurance Risk & Regulatory Leader

The survey results have been presented by:

Riccardo Raffo - CFO Program Leader, Deloitte Italy

Alexander Boersch - Chief Economist & Head of Research, Deloitte Germany

Michela Coppola - European CFO Survey Lead, Deloitte Germany

During the panel discussion the participants have been:

MEP Massimiliano SaliniIndustry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and Transport and Tourism (TRAN) Committees of the European Parliament

MEP Andreas SchwabInternal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee of the European Parliament

Heiko Willems - Head of BDI delegation to the EU

Marcella Panucci - Director-General of Confindustria

Paolo Bertoli - Former President of ANDAF and current President of ANDAF’s Advisory Council

Paolo Saraca Volpini of the Press Office of the European Parliament moderated the discussion

Methodology

The Survey presents the insights from CFOs across 20 countries in Europe. The survey is a representative portrait of the economic panorama of the countries involved, since the research has been extended to all product sectors and to all type of companies (i.e. companies owned by one or more shareholders, companies controlled by foreign groups, multinational companies, listed companies and family businesses). The set of responses collected with this project is highly representative and contributes to highlight the sentiment of the CFOs, as well as identifying the trends and challenges that the European companies are facing in these months. The full results of the survey and the previous editions of the report are available at the following address Deloitte - CFO Program. The CFO Survey Autumn 2018 report will be published on November 13th.

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