Risk & Economy » CFOs are implementing risk aversion strategies in face of uncertainty

The UK’s top CFOs are implementing risk aversion strategies in the face of continued uncertainty over the year ahead, according to new research.

The 2019 Global Business and Spending Outlook surveyed 100 senior finance executives in the UK, over 50% of whom represent companies reporting revenues of $1 billion or more. The results showed significant concern over the current economic and political climate in the UK.

The research released by American Express in collaboration with Institutional Investor found 89% of UK CFOs believe that the prospect of widely unanticipated surprise events is a rapidly growing concern for their company. As a result, 63% of CFOs report that their companies are more cautious about increasing investment in the UK, and 77% are more cautious about investing abroad.

The research also revealed 76% of CFOs plan to increase time, attention and resources directed towards enterprise-level risk management systems and process improvements, as well as protecting the company’s physical assets. Despite the uncertainty, 68% of CFOs report increased revenue growth over the previous 12 months.  This figure is higher than the global average (65%).

The research revealed that although the UK’s CFOs expect domestic economic expansion over the next year, the current economic and political climate in the UK and abroad is a significant concern. Almost two-thirds (62%) of the UK’s CFOs also report that, as a direct response to economic or political uncertainty, their companies are likely to withdraw business activities from high risk geographic areas and focus on lower risk areas over the next year.

Commenting on the research, Carlos Carriedo, senior vice president at American Express Global Commercial Services Europe said: “The UK’s businesses continue to operate in a challenging climate but our research shows they are clear-sighted and determined in their strategies for growth and managing risk. Their resilience in the face of adversity, and positive reported revenue growth, is encouraging to see.”

The research also highlighted other strategies that CFOs plan to implement to achieve success in 2019. Meeting customer needs remains the number one priority over the coming year, with 79% of UK CFOs ranking this top of the list. The biggest shift in priorities concerns pursuing business transformation and innovation. More than half (55%) of executives say this has become an important goal, compared to only 38% last year.

Furthermore, over three quarters (77%) of executives say that their companies have explicit strategies to appeal to Gen Z employees, with the same proportion having explicit strategies to appeal to Gen Z consumers.

Carlos Carriedo continued: “Our study shows CFOs are placing growing importance on better meeting the needs of their customers – a priority that is informing their business strategies for the year ahead. In midst of economic and political change, UK organisations believe customer retention is integral to their survival. To continue to prosper, they are balancing risk mitigation with making the investments required to meet the evolving needs of their customers.”