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How do CFOs feel about COVID-19?

  • September 01 2020
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How do CFOs feel about COVID-19?

By Grace Ormsby
September 01 2020

Chief financial officers nationwide have painted a very uncertain picture of corporate Australia at the present time, with domestic economic woes a leading cause for their concern.

How do CFOs feel about COVID-19

How do CFOs feel about COVID-19?

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  • September 01 2020
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Chief financial officers nationwide have painted a very uncertain picture of corporate Australia at the present time, with domestic economic woes a leading cause for their concern.

How do CFOs feel about COVID-19

The latest edition of Deloitte’s CFO Sentiment survey has revealed record-high levels of net uncertainty about economic conditions, with optimism also falling to negative numbers.

The trend downwards comes after what appeared to be “a positive turning point for business sentiment” in the second half of 2019, according to Deloitte partner and CFO program leader Stephen Gustafson.

He said, “When we surveyed Australian CFOs earlier this year, and covering the second half of 2019, we identified what looked like a positive turning point for business sentiment.”

“Not surprisingly, things have changed more than a little since,” Mr Gustafson continued.

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“A COVID-induced global economic downturn, the largest since the great depression, has hit hard, net optimism has fallen drastically, and uncertainty is at an all-time high.”

He highlighted that three out of four CFOs expect their companies’ revenues to fall, relative to pre-COVID-19 forecasts, in the second half of 2020, and more than half are expecting more revenue falls in 2021.

According to the newest report, despite the turmoil from increasing infection rates and foreign economic conditions the world over, it’s the domestic economic hit that’s having the most negative impact on CFO confidence.

“Fiscal measures have been key to supporting the economy over recent months, with JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments providing much needed income to workers in affected sectors,” the report outlined.

Despite such stimulus, “Australia’s economy will also be hurt by a series of delayed and lingering effects as pre-COVID pipelines of activity dry up and fiscal support tapers off.”

According to the report, unemployment will not peak until later in the year, while it won’t return to previous levels until at least 2024.

In addition, strict border controls will continue to hamper tourism, international education and population growth.

The volatility from the Australian sharemarket is not helping the cause.  

But Mr Gustafson was quick to acknowledge that while “reality may have bitten, and so much uncertainty is clearly taking a toll”, many businesses are not yet “pulling down the shutters”.

According to the CFOs surveyed, there are still opportunities to be found, both now and in a post-COVID-19 world.

This is if they can navigate the three main issues raised in a COVID-19-ravaged environment: The abundance of uncertainty, accelerated transformation and the need to cut costs from operating margins.

There’s plenty of optimism around tackling such challenges: More than one in three CFOs have already increased the number of deals their company pursues in order to grow and diversify through acquisitions, opportunistic deals and partnerships or alliances.

One-third (32 per cent) also believe access to funding will become even easier – with Deloitte calling it “good news for liquidity”.

How do CFOs feel about COVID-19?
How do CFOs feel about COVID-19
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About the author

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Grace is a journalist on Momentum Media's nestegg. She enjoys being able to provide easy to digest information and practical tips for Australians with regard to their wealth, as well as having a platform on which to engage leading experts and commentators and leverage their insight.

About the author

Grace is a journalist on Momentum Media's nestegg. She enjoys being able to provide easy to digest information and practical tips for Australians with regard to their wealth, as well as having a platform on which to engage leading experts and commentators and leverage their insight.

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