Mix of Optimism, Pessimism as CFOs Face Reckoning of Pandemic

CFOs expect a slow to moderate recovery from the economic shock of the pandemic according to the results of a COVID-19 survey conducted by Big 4 firm Deloitte. The survey compiled the responses of CFOs representing 118 large North American companies polled between June 17 and June 19, and found that over half don’t expect their companies to reach pre-crisis operating levels until 2021, with nearly 20% expecting 2022 or later.

In addition, almost three-quarters of respondents (72%) say they are currently operating at or above 80% capacity. The proportion of CFOs who say none of their workers are working at less than half capacity rose from 26% in Deloitte’s April survey to 37% now, but one-third again say at least 20% are at less than half capacity. CFOs in the retail, wholesale and services spaces indicated the strongest challenges.

CFOs are also mostly optimistic about their ability to operate effectively, safely and profitably as the U.S. economy continues reopening, even as the virus continues to spread in many parts of the country. They feel less optimistic about the ability of the U.S. economy and their companies to return to pre-crisis performance levels. Responses are mixed when it comes to staffing and liquidity – only 30% of respondents expect a return to normalcy by the end of the calendar year, while 50% peg 2021 and 20% expect a return in 2022 or later.

In terms of focus, some CFOs are honing in on the here and now while others are planning for days to come, with 47% of respondents adapting their company to maximize mid-crisis performance and 34% attempting to evolve their business model for the post-crisis future.

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