Swedish CFOs are becoming increasingly pessimistic as business opportunities shrink, according to the latest CFO Survey conducted by Deloitte and SEB. The survey reveals that Swedish CFOs’ views on future business opportunities have reached their lowest level since the global financial crisis of 2009. This significant drop in optimism is primarily driven by the engineering sector, where 50% of CFOs now perceive the situation as unfavorable, compared to just 15% in the spring.
The survey, which was carried out in September 2023, highlights a major shift in priorities for CFOs. Cost reductions have emerged as the highest priority, replacing organic growth, which had previously held the top spot. Cost reduction is now considered a priority by 21% of CFOs, followed by efforts to improve cash flow and drive organic growth.
Furthermore, CFOs are increasingly concerned about economic growth, with 55% identifying it as a significant risk for the next 12 months. This marks an increase from 49% in the spring survey. Other identified risks include pressure on margins and prices, as well as falling domestic demand.
In terms of adopting generative AI technology, the survey indicates that more companies are experimenting with it to understand its potential benefits. However, the majority of companies (85%) still perceive generative AI as either not important or only slightly important for their business and strategy. CFOs highlighted cost reduction, efficiency, and margin growth as the areas where generative AI could be most useful.
Though the survey paints a bleak picture of the current macroeconomic situation, experts believe there may be a chance of recovery in the next survey. Robert Bergström, a Partner at Deloitte, points out that the current period of falling sentiment has lasted for two years, just as long as the previous period of decline, indicating the possibility of a rebound in the future.
The CFO Survey conducted by Deloitte and SEB has been tracking the sentiment of Swedish CFOs since 2006 and covers a diverse range of sectors. Deloitte and SEB are both leading financial services firms, with a focus on providing responsible advice to shape a more sustainable future.
As CFOs in Sweden continue to grapple with shrinking business opportunities and prioritize cost reductions, it remains to be seen how the macroeconomic landscape will evolve in the coming months and whether a recovery is on the horizon.