Chief financial officers more optimistic following post-election low

Martin Jenkins, practice senior partner at Deloitte in Yorkshire.
Martin Jenkins, practice senior partner at Deloitte in Yorkshire.
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Optimism among Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) has recovered from its post-election low and is close to levels seen at the end of last year, according to a survey.

However, while perceptions of uncertainty have eased, corporate risk appetite remains below its long-term average and CFOs maintain a focus on defensive strategies.

Deloitte’s latest CFO Survey measured responses from 102 CFOs of FTSE 350 and other large private companies. It found that 27 per cent of CFOs are more optimistic about the prospects for their company than they were three months ago, up from 18 per cent in the second quarter, while 27 per cent say they are less optimistic, down from 42 per cent. It also found that 34 per cent said that the level of uncertainty facing their business is high or very high, down from 43 per cent last quarter and almost half the level seen immediately after last year’s EU referendum. Reducing costs remains CFOs’ top priority, with 41 per cent citing it as a key focus.

Martin Jenkins, practice senior partner at Deloitte in Yorkshire, said: “Concerns over Brexit look to have eased slightly in this latest survey with just under two-thirds of CFOs expecting an adverse effect on the business environment, down from nearly three-quarters in Q2. However, CFOs continue to see Brexit as being the top risk facing business.

“CFOs expect Brexit to have an impact on their business decisions, with almost a third expecting it to reduce their investment plans over the next three years and a third expect it to hit hiring.

“It is critical that progress is achieved soon in the negotiations between the UK and the EU to provide more certainty to business and to deliver a real boost to corporate spirits and plans.”