CFO Survey: Autumn 2021

Still on the up, but with new challenges

CFO survey 2021 Autumn edition shows an improvement in business sentiment across Europe, with the majority of Portuguese CFOs expecting an increase in revenues and gross margin, and either increase or no changes in employment and CAPEX.

Looking ahead uncertainty remains high, being the economic outlook, increasing regulations and shortage of skilled professionals the three major factors that pose significant risk to businesses.

To thrive companies will focus on digitalization and expansion in their own markets, with Portuguese CFOs also highlighting the importance of cost reduction to stay competitive and survive these uncertain times.


  • In Portugal, as in Europe, sentiment has improved: 70 per cent of inquired CFOs feel more optimistic about their company’s financial prospects (compared to 52 per cent in spring edition) and the percentage of CFOs that still feel less optimistic has decreased to 10 per cent (compared to 13 per cent in spring edition). Portuguese CFOs are the most optimistic CFOs in Europe.
  • The positive sentiment is also present at revenues and gross margin. Four in five CFOs expect their revenues to increase in the next 12 months and half expect their gross margins to increase in that same amount of time. Regarding employment and capital expenditure opinions are divided: almost the same percentage of CFO’s consider they will either increase or maintain the same level of workforce/investment. 41 per cent of CFOs in Portugal expect to increase the number of employees in their companies for the next 12 months, while 42 per cent expect their workforce to remain the same. Capital expenditure is expected to increase by 45 per cent of CFOs, while 50 per cent believe there will be no changes.
  • Portuguese CFOs feel that the overall level of external financial and economic uncertainty facing their business remains high or very high (50 and 5 per cent, respectively). Even though CFOs’ level of uncertainty slightly declined when compared to the spring edition, it is apparent that financial and economic uncertainty continues to weight in their minds.
  • Portuguese CFOs identify economic outlook, increasing regulations and shortage of skilled professionals as the three major factors that still pose significant risk to their businesses and, despite the global optimistic financial outlook, they still believe it is not a good time to be taking greater risk to their balance sheet .
  • For Portuguese CFOs the top priority strategy is digitalization (84 per cent), followed by growth in existing markets and cost reduction, in order for their businesses to remain competitive and be better prepared for future challenges.
  • 44 per cent of the Portuguese CFOs do not have any specific plan in place to reduce carbon emissions and only 14 per cent plan to achieve net-zero emissions. For those who are committed to carbon reductions, only 4 per cent say they have already achieved their goal, while 71 per cent plan to do it by 2030. Regarding the actions they are taking or about to take, the most relevant ones are reducing in-house emissions through incremental change, reducing emissions in supply chain and developing new climate-friendly products and services. CFOs highlighted that the main reasons for taking climate action are to improve reputation, save costs and comply with current/upcoming regulations.

The present study is based on CFOs' responses collected during autumn 2021, not reflecting the current geopolitical instability in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

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