Optimism among finance leaders about reopening


As work sites slowly start to reopen, CFOs are optimistic they can keep their customers and employees safe

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to slowly lift in some countries while others remain in lockdown, PwC’s latest COVID-19 CFO Pulse report reveals a sense of optimism among finance leaders about their companies’ ability to reopen safely. Seventy-five per cent of CFOs feel very confident they can meet customers’ safety expectations, and 70% are very confident they can provide a safe working environment for employees.

The survey of 867 CFOs in 24 countries and territories also found that about half (49%) of CFOs are considering making remote work a permanent option where feasible and 48% are looking at accelerating automation and other ways of working. It is notable that the majority of businesses in Africa, just like their global counterparts, are taking steps to provide a safe working environment for employees.

Kristin Rivera, Global Leader, Forensics & Crisis, PwC US, comments:

As a number of economies slowly start to reopen, it is becoming increasingly clear that businesses have a key role to play in managing the way forward. While governments are issuing broad guidance, it is companies that will need to determine when to bring their people back to work sites, how to keep them safe, and how to ensure this safety can be sustained throughout the crisis and recovery. The good news is that finance leaders are confident about their companies’ ability to design and implement effective return-to-work strategies.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Workplace safety Confidence about workplace safety runs particularly high in Denmark (90%) and Germany (85%), both of which have reopened or are soon planning to reopen their schools, restaurants, and shops. Among the tactical measures planned to protect staff, 76% of all CFOs surveyed are considering masks and testing, and 65% say they’ll reconfigure worksites to promote physical distancing.
  • Remote working CFOs in Denmark (72%), Germany (67%) and Mexico (69%) are most likely to consider making remote working a permanent option, compared to 49% of all the CFOs surveyed.
  • Employee protections Many CFOs (43%) expect higher demand for protections such as paid sick leave, discrimination safeguards, and other policies and benefits. CFOs in Portugal (54%), the US (52%) and Malaysia (52%) are most likely to expect demand for more employee protections.
  • Staffing More than one-third (37%) of CFOs expect changes in staffing such as temporary leave or furloughs due to low or slow demand. In Denmark, CFOs are more likely than average to anticipate changes in staffing (51%). In the Middle East, which has also been heavily impacted by oil price volatility, CFOs are more likely to expect changes in staffing (43%) and layoffs (40%).
  • Supply chains When it comes to changing supply chains, 51% of CFOs cite developing alternate sourcing options as the most pressing area, led by Africa (64%) and Turkey (63%). In Germany (55%) and the US (52%), CFOs are most likely to prioritise understanding the financial and operational health of their suppliers, and CFOs in the Caribbean (61%), Middle East (57%) and Africa (56%) more likely than average to plan changing contractual terms.
  • Revenues More than half (51%) of CFOs expect a decrease in revenues of up to 25% as a result of the current crisis. CFOs in Denmark and Germany are the most optimistic regarding revenue, with 31% and 27% respectively expecting a decrease of less than 10%.
  • Cost containment As companies settle into stabilisation, cost containment is a favoured strategy among CFOs, with 81% saying they will consider it in response to the crisis. Sixty per cent of finance leaders say they will defer or cancel planned investments, with facilities and general capex (83%), operations (53%) and workforce (49%) topping the list. Only 16% of CFOs are considering deferring or cancelling investments in digital transformation.
  • Recovery Although 42% of CFOs believe their company could return to ‘business as usual’ within three months if COVID-19 were to end today, there is a growing sentiment in many territories that recovery may take much longer. Overall, 8% of CFOs would expect it to take more than one year. In Malaysia, 23% of CFOs say returning to business as usual could take more than a year. Twenty-six per cent of Mexico CFOs and 33% of Africa CFOs believe it will take six to 12 months.
  • Long-term benefits Many CFOs cite work flexibility (72%), better resiliency and agility (65%), and technology investments (52%) as crisis-driven developments that will improve their companies in the long run.


PwC’s latest COVID-19 CFO Pulse surveyed 867 CFOs from 24 countries or territories from 4-6 May, including: Central and Southern Africa1, Brazil, Caribbean2, China/Hong Kong, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Middle East3, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, US, Vietnam.

  1. Representatives from Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Togo and Uganda
  2. Representatives from Bermuda, Bahamas and Jamaica
  3. Representatives from Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, KSA, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon

To download the report with the full findings, visit: www.pwc.com/cfopulse. PwC is tracking sentiment and priorities about the COVID-19 outbreak among finance leaders around the world, with new survey results to be released every two weeks. The next set of results will be released in early June.

This article was first published by PwC at the following URL: https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/news-room/press-releases/2020/cfos-optimistic-keep-customers-employees-safe.html