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CFO Covid Survey: Finance Teams are Optimistic for 2021

Benjamin Romberg Spendesk

While 2020 is coming to an end, the pandemic is not yet. Most countries are struggling to contain the second wave, and have introduced more or less strict measures, with many under some sort of lockdown again.

Which impact does this have on businesses? And how are finance teams managing the situation compared to the first lockdown earlier this year?

Following up on our first CFO COVID survey in April, we checked back in with finance leaders from SMBs across Europe to get a pulse on how business is going. Here are the most interesting trends we can see, comparing the results from our April & November surveys.

1) Positivity prevails

Compared to the peak of the first COVID wave in April, finance leaders assess the impact on their business much more positively now.

Only one third of respondents noticed a negative financial impact on their company from the crisis – compared to two-thirds earlier this year. And the number of “neutral” answers has increased significantly: more than half of the businesses reported to be not very impacted by the crisis.

How has your business been affected?

Looking back at their predictions during the first lockdown, most finance leaders say that the impact on their business was better than expected, and most had at least forecasted realistically.

Impact on your business was

The future outlook for most businesses has clearly improved, as well. The ratio of positive answers has doubled, while very few finance leaders are still concerned about the future.

Future of your business

2) Preparation is key

Part of the positivity during the second lockdown comes from the fact that finance teams know what to expect this time: four out of five finance leaders say that they feel well or even very well prepared now, compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

How well prepared are you

This is especially true regarding the remote organization of teams that many businesses have gotten used to. While this was a big concern at the beginning of the crisis, the past months have proved that remote work doesn’t result in a loss of efficiency or productivity.

One new challenge, however, was mentioned by many finance leaders in our survey: It has become increasingly hard to keep employees motivated during the second lockdown.

3) Focus on forecasting

“Cash is king” has been the mantra for finance teams in 2020. During the first lockdown, cashflow management was the number one priority for finance leaders.

Now, forecasting is by far the biggest challenge as businesses still face a lot of uncertainty – cash, on the contrary, has become less of a focus throughout the crisis.

Finance challenges

However, finance teams are still keeping a close eye on the cost side of their business. The pressure on budgets for marketing and new hires have eased visibly, and even new investments are less likely to be postponed now, compared to earlier this year.

At the same time, cost-cutting still obviously affects categories like events, business travel and team perks.

Cost cutting

Spotlight on finance in 2021

2020 has been a challenging year for most businesses, and for finance teams in particular. Suddenly, finance leaders found themselves playing a critical role in navigating their companies safely through the pandemic, while the near future was less predictable than ever.

Despite the uncertainty, it’s great to see that positivity prevails in the finance community and that finance leaders are starting the new year with optimisim & confidence – certainly inspired by the hard-won lessons of 2020.

For more finance leadership insights, check out our free guide: CFO Trends for 2021