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With fears of a second COVID-19 wave, CFOs are focused on how to create revenue and be agile

Monday, June 15, 2020 --  As businesses have moved beyond the initial crisis management and cost reduction phase from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, chief financial officers are now focused on regaining their footing, rebuilding revenue and reshaping their business as concerns of a second wave continues to loom.

According to PwC’s sixth COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, the biggest concern for finance leaders is a second wave of coronavirus infections (59%) with the impact of a global economic downturn (54%) following closely behind. However, it is clear they are shifting their focus to how they can create sustainable business models that can adapt to the new realities of working and doing business in a challenging era of unpredictability.

Businesses have already made the immediate financial decisions that have helped them maintain operations thus far. However, if they are going to succeed moving forward, they will need to generate revenue. In many cases that will mean innovating new products and services that will work for consumers in a new reality that may require continued social distancing and other health and safety measures.

While the vast majority of CFOs surveyed expect COVID-19 to decrease revenue/profits (78%), their outlook has improved. In total, 13% of CFOs expect a revenue decrease of 25% or greater, down seven percentage points from the prior survey. With a slightly more optimistic view, 11% of respondents now see a potential to increase revenue.

“We are facing one of the most challenging times in history with a global health crisis, social unrest and significant economic uncertainty. And in times of great uncertainty, business leaders have an obligation to step up and lead to create greater stability,” said Tim Ryan, PwC US Chair and Senior Partner. “We must face these challenges head on and deliver on the larger purpose of the business community -- creating opportunity and growth so that we can invest in people, communities and the overall economy.”

The survey findings also suggest that leaders now have a better grasp of the broad-ranging impact of the pandemic on their business. The expected time required to return to “business as usual” has improved and begun to even out after a series of lengthening over prior surveys conducted, with 95% of respondents estimating they would do so in less than 12 months. Illustrating further confidence to rebound rather quickly, 67% of all respondents believe they can return to usual in less than six months.

As they plan strategies to recoup revenues, returning to “business as usual” will look different than expected. Overall, CFOs report high confidence in their companies' return to the workplace abilities while identifying new revenue opportunities is more challenging. Specifically, the ability for businesses to return to pre-COVID revenue levels is predicated on how they can adapt and be agile in this new environment. For example, 63% of respondents anticipate that changes in product and service offerings will be most important to rebuilding or enhancing their revenue streams. Other revenue growth opportunities include changes to pricing strategies (41%), distribution channels (36%), talent (34%), customer segments (34%), deals (31%), new markets (26%) and the supply chain (25%).

“Now is the time where we are going to see certain businesses succeed. Those that do so will be the businesses that are nimble and able to adapt their existing business models to not only retain existing customers but also identify new ones,” said Amity Millhiser, PwC US Vice Chair and Chief Clients Officer. “Businesses that we have seen succeed these past few months are those that initially listened to their employees and embraced a digital mindset to keep them safe and working. With a growing importance on rebuilding revenue, now more than ever they need to also listen to their customers and embrace a similar mindset to innovate products and services and offer a new experience rooted in technology.”

Additional Survey Results:

Financial Actions:

  • 79% of respondents are considering implementing cost containment
  • 36% of respondents are considering adjusting guidance as a result of COVID-19, down 8 percentage points
  • 52% of respondents are considering deferring or canceling planned investments as a result of COVID-19, down 6 percentage points

Workforce Impact:

  • 26% say in the next month they expect a productivity loss due to lack of remote work capabilities, down 8 percentage points
  • 20% say in the next month they expect insufficient staffing to accomplish critical work, up 3 percentage points
  • 30% say in the next month they expect a change in staffing due to low/slow demand (temporary furloughs), down 6 percentage points
  • 24% say in the next month they expect separation of staff (layoffs), down 7 percentage points

Return to the Workplace:

  • 80% are very confident they can meet customers’ safety expectations, up 6 percentage points
  • 73% are very confident they can provide clear response and shut-down protocols if COVID-19 cases in their area rose significantly or if there was a second wave of infections
  • 71% are very confident they can provide a safe working environment, up 7 percentage points

Emerging Stronger:

  • 73% say the current work flexibility will make the company better in the long run (e.g., hours, location), up 5 percentage points
  • 72% say the current situation has resulted in better resiliency and agility which will make the company better in the long run
  • 56% say technology investment from the current situation will make the company better in the long run, up 7 percentage points
  • 53% say the current situation has resulted in new ways to serve customers, up 9 percentage points, which will make the company better in the long run

*All increase/decrease data comparisons are in reference to the last survey conducted, May 5-7, 2020.

PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey

PwC surveyed 330 US CFOs and finance leaders between June 8 - 11, 2020; 29% of respondents were from Fortune 1000 companies. The PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey is taking place periodically to track changing sentiment and priorities. The first iteration of the Pulse Survey was conducted March 9-11, 2020; the second took place from March 25-27, 2020; the third was conducted between April 6-8, the fourth from April 20-22 and the fifth May 5-7. You can view all findings and insights by visiting: pwc.com/us/covid-19-survey.

About PwC

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Molly Molendyke

Molly Molendyke

CEO Survey, Chairman Communications, US Executive Leadership Communications, PwC US

Tel: +1 (646) 629 7345

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