Business focus is on containing costs and planning for a rebound, COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey reveals

06 April, 2020

The latest COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey reveals significant concerns around the business and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic among chief financial officers (CFOs) from a number of countries around the world. The survey confirms unprecedented challenges, but finance leaders are taking steps to deal with the crisis.

  • Unsurprisingly, more than four in five (82%) of respondents say that the outbreak has the potential to significantly impact their businesses
  • Over half (52%) are considering measures to contain costs
  • 75% of respondents expect that their business would be back to normal within three months if COVID-19 were to end immediately
An aerial photograph of Dublin docklands and overlooking the Samuel Beckett bridge with a sunrise in the background.

The results indicated that CFOs are increasingly worried about the ramifications of the pandemic, with 82% reporting that the outbreak has the potential to significantly impact their businesses. The top three concerns with respect to COVID-19 are a global recession is likely (67%), financial impact on operations, liquidity and capital resources (60%) and a reduction in productivity (44%).

The PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey is a biweekly survey to gauge how finance leaders are reacting to COVID-19 with views taken from over 150 CFOs from around the world. A similar, separate survey is also being conducted of finance leaders in the US.

Commenting on the latest survey David McGee Leader of Markets and Strategy of PwC Ireland said, "With pre-crisis targets no longer relevant, the survey highlights that many companies are grappling with how to maintain financial and operational stability given the sharp drop in activity for many of them. We're seeing business leaders focusing on the immediate working capital implications as well as their longer-term ability to recover post COVID-19 including protecting their people. Leaders are looking at their strategies head-on, and are positive about their recovery."

Over half are considering cost containment

The survey reveals that many companies are rapidly adjusting their business strategies in response to the pandemic. Over half (52%) are considering measures to contain costs and 47% are considering deferring or cancelling planned investments and capital expenditure. Just 13% of finance executives say they plan to change their M&A strategy, though this was much higher in the US responses (29%).

When asked about the impact on their workforce over the next month, half (52%) of respondents expect productivity losses due to the lack of remote working capabilities. Nearly a third (32%) of respondents expect lay-offs as a direct result of COVID-19, though the US expects these to a lesser extent (16%).

Many expect to rebound once the crisis ends

Despite fears of COVID-19 extending to every aspect of business, there is some positivity. The majority of finance leaders surveyed (75%) feel assured that their business could return to business-as-usual within three months should COVID-19 be resolved today.

"The impacts of COVID-19 are being felt by many businesses in Ireland as measures to contain the outbreak impact all aspects of life. Those businesses who plan and act decisively during a crisis emerge better positioned to succeed through uncertainty. This includes assessing all aspects of their business from liquidity and cash flow, workforce, supply chain, strategy, operations, contractual agreements, financing and insurance", David McGee concluded.


Note to editors

About the PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey

The PwC COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey is a biweekly survey to gauge how finance leaders plan to react to COVID-19 and what impacts they expect to see. 153 CFOs and finance leaders were surveyed between 23-25 March and were from Bahrain, Netherlands, the Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. A separate and similar survey was carried out in the US and Mexico comprising 55 responses.

The first iteration of this Pulse Survey was conducted in early March and the next iteration will launch in mid April.

About PwC

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We're a network of firms in 155 countries with over 284,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at

PwC refers to the PwC network or one or more of its member firms or both, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details.

© 2021 PwC. All rights reserved

Contact us

David McGee

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 8785

Johanna Dehaene

Corporate Communications, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 6547

Follow PwC Ireland