CFO concerns about the coronavirus pandemic are multiplying, accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers' CFO survey, released Monday, shows.
The survey, which is an update from a survey conducted in mid-March, tracks the changing attitude towards COVID-19 as a business catastrophe. Over the last few weeks, the impact grew exponentially across the country and now 87% of CFOs expressed concern that the pandemic would significantly affect their businesses, up from 54% on March 15.
In response, 67% of finance leaders surveyed say they've already taken steps to contain costs.
Though the time between the two surveys is only two weeks, the answers reflect significant changes in CFOs’ attitudes towards and fears regarding the coronavirus. PwC researchers conducted the first survey during the week of March 9 and the second survey between March 23 and 25.
While a majority of the CFOs expect losses in productivity over the next month, as well as staffing changes due to slowed business, only 16% predict mass layoffs.
Even so, 44% said they expect to see other means of staff reduction, including furloughs and paid leave. About two-thirds of respondents have already taken cost-containing steps, with 64% considering deferring or canceling investments they had in the works.
Four in five finance leaders said they expect a decrease in revenue or profit for the year. Two weeks ago, only 58% anticipated decreased revenue and profits; 40% said it was difficult to assess.
The earlier survey reported 90% of CFOs expecting their business to be back to normal within three months, but the new survey shows that same reported figure dropped to 76%.
PwC attributed this change to the realization that the impacts of COVID-19 aren’t going away quickly. "It is important to note that respondents were surveyed before the U.S. Labor Department reported a record 3.28 million jobless claims for the week ending March 21," PwC noted in the revised study.
As their top concern, 84% of CFOs named a global recession. That was closely followed by financial impacts of the virus, including impacts on operations, liquidity and capital concerns.