PwC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey

What finance leaders are focused on

A new pulse survey from PwC shows how finance leaders across the world plan to react to COVID-19 − and what impacts they expect to see. PwC in Switzerland joined the survey during the week of 23 March, polling CFOs at the largest Swiss companies in diverse industries. The idea is to repeat the survey every two weeks so we can track changing sentiments and priorities among a small but relevant group of finance leaders.


The main findings for Switzerland in brief:

  • The survey results suggest that Swiss CFOs have a lower level of concern about COVID-19 than CFOs in the US and Mexico. About three-quarters of respondents in Switzerland say that the outbreak has the potential to significantly impact their business operations compared with 87% of the CFOs surveyed in the US and Mexico.
  • A substantial 75% of Swiss CFOs expect the effects of COVID-19 to negatively impact their revenues and/or profits.
  • The three most common actions already taken in response to COVID-19 in Switzerland are cost containment measures, deferring or cancelling planned investments, and changes to company financing plans.
  • Finance executives in Switzerland named changes in staffing due to low/slow demand (temporary furloughs) and staff layoffs as the most likely negative events in the next month.
  • CFOs in Switzerland seem to be considerably more bullish than CFOs in the US and Mexico in terms of their expectations of returning to a ‘normal level of business’ after the COVID-19 crisis ends.

The responses in more detail

CFOs in Switzerland display a lower level of concern over COVID-19 than those in the US and Mexico


What is your company’s current level of concern related to COVID-19?

Potential for significant impact to our business operations, and it is causing us great concern

Limited to specific regions in our business currently, but we are monitoring closely

An isolated challenge; not greatly impacting our business currently, but we are monitoring the situation for any change

Source: PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, 25 March 2020
Base: 20

The measures implemented against the spread of COVID-19 are causing significant concern among finance leaders in Switzerland and around the globe. Although COVID-19 has not achieved its peak yet, three-quarters of respondents in Switzerland believe the outbreak has the potential to significantly impact their business operations, compared with 87% of their counterparts in the US and Mexico.

Only a minority of respondents see the impacts of the pandemic as limited to specific regions in their business or as an isolated challenge without a large impact on the business.


What are your top-three concerns with respect to COVID-19?

Financial impact, including effects on results of operations, future periods and liquidity and capital resources

Potential global recession

Effects on our workforce/reduction in productivity

Supply chain issues

Decrease in consumer confidence reducing consumption

Not having enough information to make good decisions

Difficulties with funding

Cybersecurity, privacy or fraud risks

Lack of a comprehensive/tested company emergency preparedness plan

Impacts on tax, trade or immigration

Source: PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, 25 March 2020
Base: 20

The top concern for finance leaders based in Switzerland is the potentially adverse financial impact of COVID-19, including effects on results of operations, future periods and liquidity and capital resources.

That concern is followed by worries that the outbreak of the coronavirus will lead to a global economic downturn and negative effects on the workforce/declining productivity.


Majority expect adverse impact on business, though sizeable minority still cannot predict


What impact do you expect on your company’s revenue and/or profits this year as a result of COVID-19?

Decrease revenue and/or profits
%
It is difficult to assess at this point
%
We do not expect any impact to revenue and/or profits
%
Increase revenue and/or profits
%
Source: PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, 25 March 2020
Base: 20

The large-scale interruption of business activities and the postponement of various projects will most likely lead to a decline in the financial results of most businesses. Three-quarters of Swiss respondents expect COVID-19 to have a negative impact on revenues and/or profits.

Given that the information and insights on COVID-19 are evolving on a daily basis, it’s unsurprising that 15% of respondents currently have difficulty assessing the impact of COVID-19 on their revenues. To this extent it’s important to remember that these findings are based on a survey in the week of 23 March, since which time things have already moved on.


Which of the following financial actions is your company considering as a result of COVID-19? (Select all that apply)

Implementing cost containment
%
Deferring or canceling planned investments
%
Changing company financing plans
%
Adjusting guidance
%
Other
%
We have not taken any financial actions as a result of COVID-19
%
Changing M&A strategy
%
Source: PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, 25 March 2020
Base: 20

The three most common actions already implemented by Swiss companies as a response to COVID-19 are cost containment, deferring or cancelling planned investments, and changing company financing plans. In comparison, finance executives based in the US and Mexico are more likely to consider additional cost measures such as changing their M&A strategy – a low priority in Switzerland.

From a deals perspective, however, the picture we get from talking to our clients differs from the survey findings: clients report that while some of their ongoing transactions continue, most of their M&A-related projects have been stopped and/or postponed.


To what extent do you plan on changing your disclosures as a result of COVID-19?

Difficult to assess currently

Not at all

Somewhat

Significantly

Source: PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, 25 March 2020
Base: 20

Supply chain considerations


As a result of COVID-19, are you considering changing the breadth of your supply chain?

%
Yes
%
No
%
Not sure

Source: PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, 25 March 2020
Base: 20

Given that full economic impact of COVID-19 is still hard to assess, only 20% of companies are considering changes to their supply chain and have implemented short-term measures. In the long term, more companies are likely to readjust their supply chain.


Swiss CFOs have more bullish expectations about business ‘bouncing back’ than their counterparts in the US and Mexico


If COVID-19 were to end today, how long would you estimate it would take for your company to get back to business as usual?

Less than a month
%
1 to 3 months
%
3 to 6 months
%
6 to 12 months
%
More than 12 months
%
Source: PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, 25 March 2020
Base: 20

Companies are dealing with immense uncertainty as the effects of COVID-19 on their businesses and the economy become more widespread. So how long do finance executives think it would take to recover if the outbreak were to end immediately?

Swiss respondents are cautiously optimistic: 65% say their business would return to normal in less than one month and an additional 25% assume a period of one to three months. Sentiments shared in the US and Mexico are slightly more pessimistic, as roughly 75% say their business would return to normal in one to three months.

 

About the survey

As part of a global initiative, PwC Switzerland is monitoring the reaction of the Chief Financial Officers to the outbreak of COVID-19 by carrying out a survey every two weeks with the CFOs of the largest Swiss companies from various industries. This survey was conducted in the week of 23 March. In the first wave, the survey was first introduced in the USA / Mexico and expanded in the second wave to other areas, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines and Thailand. A total of 20 territories worldwide are expected to participate in the next survey during the week of 6 April 2020.

Contact us

Julie Fitzgerald Wieland

Julie Fitzgerald Wieland

Partner and Growth & Markets Leader, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 26 80

Jan-Hendrik Völker-Albert

Jan-Hendrik Völker-Albert

Head of Marketing & Communications, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 1885

Reto Brunner

Reto Brunner

Partner, Advisory, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 14 19

Norbert Kühnis

Norbert Kühnis

Leiter Familienunternehmen und KMU, Mitglied der Geschäftsleitung, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 63 63