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Deloitte European CFO Survey: Positive attitudes to investment despite a dent in confidence

13 November 2018

  • Despite uncertainties, Europe’s CFOs put more emphasis on expansionary strategies
  • Geopolitical risks remerge as biggest concern
  • CFOs plan to continue capital spending and hiring

CFOs across Europe remain focused on their company’s growth despite uncertainty levels rising and risk appetite declining, according to Deloitte’s latest European CFO Survey.

Deloitte has collated the results of surveys run by its member firms in 20 European countries for the autumn edition of the European CFO Survey, giving the views of 1,373 CFOs.

Optimism and revenue expectations continue to drop
25% of Europe’s CFOs say they are more optimistic about the financial prospects for their company than they were three months ago, down from 38% in the Spring 2018 survey.

26% say they are less optimistic, more than double from the previous survey (12%).

60% of CFOs are confident that their firm will increase revenues over the next 12 months, down from 72% six months ago. However, CFOs in euro area countries are much more optimistic, with 69% predicting revenue growth, compared to just 46% in non-euro countries.

Uncertainty levels rise
62% of European CFOs say there is a high level of financial and economic uncertainty, up from 52% in Spring 2018.

CFOs in the UK have the highest reading on perceptions of uncertainty, with 89% reporting high uncertainty, while CFOs in Sweden had the lowest with 14%. Perceptions of uncertainty are higher in non-euro counties, with 65% reporting high uncertainty, versus 59% in the euro area.

Risk appetite at an all-time low
Just one in four CFOs (24%) say now is a good time to take greater risk onto their balance sheets, down from 34% in last spring’s survey. The lowest since the European CFO Survey began in 2015. Just 8% of CFOs in Turkey are willing to take on greater risk, the lowest across the 20 countries, compared to 45% in France.

27% of CFOs in euro area countries say now is a good time to take on risk, compared to 20% in non-euro countries.

Capex and hiring outlook drops slightly
39% forecast an increase in capital spending in the next 12 months, down slightly from 46%. 51% of CFOs in euro area countries plan to increase spending, compared to 23% in non-euro countries.

64% of CFOs in Ireland say they plan to increase capex, the highest across the 20 countries, compared to a low of 11% in the UK.

35% of CFOs say they plan to increase employee numbers in the next 12 months, down from 42% in the Spring. CFOs in Belgium are the most optimistic about employee numbers, with 59% forecasting an increase, while just 6% of CFOs in the UK plan to increase hiring, the lowest. 45% of CFOs in euro area countries plan to increase hiring, down from 49% in Spring 2018, compared to just 20% in non-euro countries.

Geopolitical risks remerge as biggest business concern
Concerns about geopolitical risks have overtaken the shortage of skilled labour, with CFOs in half of the countries surveyed rating it as the biggest risk, up from one quarter of those surveyed six months ago.

CFOs are also becoming increasingly concerned about the general economic outlook, with 45% of those countries surveyed saying this was their biggest risk (up from 30%). The same percentage cite a skills shortage as a significant business risk.

CFOs sharpen their focus on expansion
In 13 of the 20 countries surveyed, CFOs cite more expansionary balance sheet measures as priorities than defensive measures, with organic growth the main expansionary focus for CFOs. This is up from the previous survey when CFOs in 11 of 20 countries were prioritising expansion.

Ian Stewart, chief UK economist at Deloitte, said:
“Geopolitical uncertainties and slowing growth have dented CFO confidence and lowered risk appetite across Europe. Yet CFOs have not turned their back on expansion, and despite a dip, remain pretty positive on hiring and investment.”

David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive, Deloitte North West Europe, said:
“Despite higher levels of uncertainty European CFOs are focusing on their expansionary strategies and creating new products to keep pace with technological change.

“Skills shortages remain a major risk to business in Europe. Our surveys shows that a lack of technical knowledge and work experience are areal headaches for business. Companies need to work harder to get and retain staff, tap into underutilised parts of the workforce and investment in productivity-boosting ideas and kit.”


Note to editors

This is the seventh edition of the Deloitte European CFO Survey.

The Survey collates the findings of surveys conducted by Deloitte member firms in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

In total, 1,373 CFOs took part in these surveys, conducted between August and September 2018.

Percentages used in the report are weighted by GDP to provide accurate comparisons, taking into account individual countries’ GDPs in relation to the total GDP of the 20 participating countries.

The full survey results, and previous surveys are available to view at

About Deloitte
In this press release references to “Deloitte” are references to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”) a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

Deloitte LLP is a subsidiary of Deloitte NWE LLP, which is a member firm of DTTL, and is among the UK's leading professional services firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

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