How CFOs Around the World are Shifting Business Priorities

New research of 989 CFOs around the world shed light on how their businesses have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and begun preparing for the future.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change businesses and their employees around the world even as some countries begin to implement their phased reopening plans. Understanding the economic and business impact of the global crisis is key to understanding how business leaders must adapt for the future and prepare for recovery. On 15 June, PwC released the latest addition to their survey of 989 CFO leaders and their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic from 23 countries or territories. The results reveal key business outcomes, a continued focus on safety and remote work, as well as insights into new ways of working and the future of business.

Productivity, Agility, and Resiliency Are Key Outcomes of the Pandemic

Just two months ago, nearly half (45%) expected productivity loss due to the lack of remote work capabilities. But the global crisis has consistently demonstrated that change is inevitable, and businesses must adapt to these changes. The latest addition of the survey now reports that 26% of CFOs anticipate productivity loss in the upcoming month, a significant dip from last reporting. This change is teaching many of us how to be agile, adapt, and innovate. Remote work and increased flexibility led 75% of CFOs to report that such factors will strengthen their organizations over the long term, 50% report plans to accelerate new ways of working, and 65% reported gains in resiliency and agility.

A Continued Focus on Safety and Remote Work

While more than half (53%) of CFOs anticipate a decrease in revenue and/or profits up to 25%, confidence is high among CFOs about safety preparations for both customers and employees. With 75% of respondents planning new workforce safety measures, including the 72% who are reconfiguring their workplace for social distancing, such safety measures ensure that employees are made safe. In the meantime, the trend towards more remote work continues, with 52% of CFOs indicating that they will take steps to improve the remote work experience, while 52% will make remote work a permanent option.

According to the survey, “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.”

Innovation and New Ways of Working for Recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that shifting business strategy is key to weathering the storm. While remote work is a clear choice for many businesses, there are other ways too. For instance, “CFOs in Africa (68%), the Middle East (62%) and Turkey (61%) are more likely than average to plan to accelerate automation.” Innovation, particularly in offering new or enhanced products and services, will be crucial to recovery, with 63% of CFOs citing offering new or enhanced products or services as most important. CFOs in Denmark (72%) and the Caribbean (70%) are particularly focused on changing product and service offerings, while CFOs in Mexico (38%) and the US (34%) cited talent changes, such as hiring and upskilling, in their strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic upended businesses and their employees on a global scale, with businesses leaders from around the world shifting their strategies for business continuity. While the future remains uncertain, business leaders are making strides in their ability to lead through change and innovate solutions for recovery on a global scale.

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