As COVID-19 restrictions continued to lift in some countries while others remained in lockdown, PwC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse survey from this summer revealed that CFOs are most concerned about the effects of a global economic downturn (60%) and the possibility of a new wave of infection (58%). However, they are very confident that they would be able to respond effectively to a new wave of infections (71%). 

The survey of 989 CFOs in 23 countries and territories also found that CFOs have shifted their focus to bringing people back to a workplace that has fundamentally changed. Only twenty six percent of CFOs anticipate productivity loss due to the lack of remote work capabilities in the coming month, and 52% are planning to make remote work a permanent option for roles that allow. 

Melanie Butler, Partner, PwC United Kingdom, commented, “As a number of economies slowly start to reopen, it is becoming increasingly clear that businesses have a key role to play in learning to operate alongside a virus that remains a  threat. Companies will need to implement the right measures to keep their employees safe and look at new ways of working to survive and thrive moving forward. Several common themes emerge from CFOs in all the  countries we surveyed:  concern about a new wave of infection and how to keep people safe, the need for agile plans to navigate a global economic downturn and re-engage customers, and the pursuit of new revenue streams through innovations.” 

Key findings of the PwC survey included:

• Workplace safety: The majority of CFOs are planning new workplace safety measures (75%) and reconfiguring work sites to promote distancing (72%) when they start to transition back to on-site work. CFOs report feeling very confident about their companies’ ability to provide a safe environment for customers (79%) and employees (74%). Although a new wave of infection is among their top concerns, they also report feeling very confident that they would be able to respond effectively (71%). CFOs in Turkey (92%) and Cyprus (89%) are most likely to report being very confident about meeting customer safety expectations, and finance leaders in the Caribbean (82%), Turkey (81%) and Africa (80%) have the largest share of respondents who are very confident in their second-wave response and shutdown protocols.

• Remote working: More than half of CFOs indicate they will take steps to improve the remote work experience (52%) and to make remote work a permanent option (52%). 

• Rebuilding revenue streams: 63% of CFOs cite offering new or enhanced products or services as the most pressing area, led by Denmark (72%) and the Carribean (70%). In Mexico (38%) and the US (34%), CFOs are most likely to prioritize talent changes such as hiring and upskilling.  

• Revenues: More than half (53%) of CFOs expect a decrease in revenues of up to 25% as a result of the current crisis. Only 4% of CFOs say the impact of the crisis is still difficult to assess. CFOs in countries such as Germany and Denmark are the most optimistic regarding revenue expecting a decrease of less than 10%, no impact or an increase in revenues.  

• Cost containment: As companies settle into stabilization, cost containment is a favored strategy among CFOs, with 81% saying they will consider it in response to the crisis. 56% of finance leaders say they will defer or cancel planned investments, with facilities and general capex (82%), operations (47%) and workforce (40%) topping the list. Only 11% of CFOs are considering deferring or cancelling investments in digital transformation. CFOs in the Middle East (90%) and Mexico (89%) are most likely to consider cancelling capex investments. In the US, CFOs are more likely than average to cite reductions in workforce investments (48%)

• Recovery: As they implement return-to-work strategies, CFOs are most concerned about the effects of a global economic downturn (60%), the possibility of a new wave of infection (58%) and financial impact on their company (47%). Financial impact is the primary concern among CFOs in Cyprus (81%) and Africa (59%), but it is cited by just 35% in Denmark and 34% of CFOs in Germany.

PwC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse surveyed 989 CFOs from 23 countries or territories, including Central and Southern Africa, Brazil, Caribbean, China/Hong Kong, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Middle East, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, US and Vietnam.

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