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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

CFOs increasingly fearful of Brexit

More chief financial officers (CFOs) are worried about the long-term impact of Brexit than at any point since the 2016 referendum, a quarterly survey by Deloitte has found.

Brexit remains the largest risk CFOs face ©iStock

Eight in 10 CFOs believe the long-term business environment will deteriorate as a result of Brexit, while almost two-thirds expect to reduce hiring because of the issue.

And just 4% think now is a good time to take a greater risk onto their balance sheets, which is the lowest figure recorded by Deloitte since the financial crash in 2008.

Chief economist, Ian Stewart, said: “Events in the last three years, and recent news suggesting the economy shrank in the second quarter, have added to worries about Brexit.

“This is not solely a question of the long-term outlook. Brexit has not happened, but it is acting as a drag on corporate sentiment and spending."

A total of 79 CFOs participated in the research, including 48 from FTSE 350 firms representing £345bn in market value and around 15% of the UK’s quoted equity market.

Just 9% of the CFOs said they are more optimistic about the prospects of their company than they were three months ago, down from 13% in the first quarter of this year.

Brexit remains the largest risk they face, rated at 65 out of 100, up from 62 in the previous quarter.

Geopolitical risks are now the second greatest concern, rising from 55 to 60 on the scale, with the threat of greater protectionism in the US increasing from 49 to 60.

Weaknesses in emerging markets and the euro area featured at the bottom of the CFO risk list.

The survey also found that corporates remain focused on defensive strategies, with 52% and 43% of CFOs citing cost control and increasing cash flow as strong priorities respectively.

“The challenging and uncertain macro-economic environment is weighing on the corporate sector and its job creation and investment plans," Deloitte senior partner, Richard Houston, said.

"Companies are looking for more certainty around our country’s economic future as they prepare themselves for a post-Brexit environment.” 

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