Survey Shows How CFOs, Finance Leaders Plan to React to COVID-19

The potential for COVID-19 to lead to a global economic downturn is the top concern for finance leaders in the United States and Mexico.

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PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey: What finance leaders are focused on, which reveals how chief financial officers (CFOs) and finance executives in the United States and Mexico plan to react to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and what business and economic impacts they anticipate in the coming weeks and months. PwC interviewed 50 finance leaders from March 9-11.

The potential for COVID-19 to lead to a global economic downturn is the top concern for finance leaders in the United States and Mexico. However, 90% of finance leaders say their business would return to normal in less than 3 months if COVID-19 were to end immediately. Other key findings include:

  • All finance leaders say their business is experiencing some impact as a result of coronavirus.
  • 54% of respondents say the outbreak has the potential for "significant" impact to business operations.
  • 58% expect a decrease in their company's revenue and/or profits this year.
  • 34% say impact has been limited to specific regions, but that they are monitoring developments closely.
  • Just 14% of finance leaders reported that their company is not considering any financial actions as a result of COVID-19.
  • Only 30% are considering supply chain changes.
  • 80% indicated that a potential global recession rated among their Top 3 concerns with respect to COVID-19.
  • 48% of finance leaders expect to change disclosures.

"Uncertainty, especially regarding both the length and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, is a predominant concern for chief financial officers," says Tim Ryan, PwC U.S. chair and senior partner. "However, with 90% of CFOs and finance leaders optimistic that they can return to normal business operations fairly quickly if the pandemic stops soon, this should signal a strong sense of urgency for business leaders to work closely with government and public health officials to help address the crisis."

PwC has also created the COVID-19: Navigator, an online tool that helps companies assess the potential impact to their business and gauge readiness to respond to disruption created by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Most finance leaders surveyed seem to be optimistic about a resolution to the spread of the coronavirus and as a result are focused on near-term vs. long-term solutions to managing costs," says Amity Millhiser, PwC U.S. vice chair and chief clients officer. "However, if conditions continue to deteriorate, we would expect to see a pullback in long-term investment spending as companies move to longer-term cost containment strategies."

Of the 50 finance leaders surveyed, 80% are from Fortune 1000 companies, with others in healthcare non-profit associations or in privately held companies, and 44 respondents are from the United States whereas 6 are from Mexico. The survey will repeat every two weeks to track changing sentiment and priorities.