In recent surveys we have noted an increasing optimism and shifts towards a more expansive agenda, both when it comes to corporate priorities and use of excess cash. In this survey the overall impression is that these expectations have levelled off somewhat, but they remain at high levels.
As for priorities, labor constraints remain a significant risk according to the CFOs. Other than this, their responses vary across the different sectors, indicating that everyone is “fighting their own battle”. Cyber risk is not considered a major risk, which correlates with the view of CFOs that a cyber-attack is relatively likely, but would have no major impact (see the “Hot topics” section, “CFO views about risks to the global economy”).
Organic growth* is ranked as a top priority among the vast majority of sectors. Except for organic growth, the relative importance of different alternatives remains stable compared to previous surveys.
Looking at the different sectors, introducing new products/services is considered a top priority in the Techonology, Media and Telecom (TMT) sector, operational investments to increase capacity is the preferred choice in the Energy, Utilities and Mining (EUM) sector and increasing cash flow is the top priority in the Manufacturing sector.
*introduced as an alternative in the spring survey
Merger and acquisition (M&A) activities are considered a top priority within sectors such as TMT and Life Science. However, we note that its relative importance compared to other priorities has declined overall.
Greatest concerns are different among the sectors. The only sector that considers financial sector risks to be significant to itself is Financial Services. In the Construction sector, the economic outlook and the shortage of skilled professionals – together with a reduction in domestic demand – are considered the main risks. Shortages of skilled professionals are the main concern in Business & Professional Services.