Finance chiefs go on the defensive following Brexit vote

Hayley Kirton
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Finance departments are looking for ways to weather the post-Brexit vote storm (Source: Getty)

Finance heads across the UK's biggest businesses are preparing themselves for a post-EU vote storm, research out today has found.

The study by Deloitte, which surveyed 132 finance chiefs of FTSE 350 and other large private companies between 28 June and 11 July, discovered appetite for risk had dropped sharply following the vote to Leave, while feelings of uncertainty were on the rise.

Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) said they were less optimistic about what the future held financially for their company, up significantly from the third (32 per cent) who felt this way when the professional services firm ran the same survey three months ago and higher than the number who held this concern during the fallout of the Lehman Brothers collapse.

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A mere eight per cent of those questioned said they felt like this was a good time to be taking more risk onto their balance sheets, dramatically down from 25 per cent when the same question was asked three months ago and the lowest level recorded by Deloitte since the start of 2009.

Meanwhile, 82 per cent predicted their company would lower its levels of capital spending and 83 per cent believed their firm would put the brakes on hiring. By comparison, just 34 per cent and 29 per cent respectively felt the same way in Deloitte's prior survey.

"Corporate willingness to take risk has seen one its largest ever declines while the outlook for capital spending, hiring and discretionary spending is at levels last seen just before the so-called 'double dip' slowdown of 2012," said Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte. "Perceptions of uncertainty have soared to levels last associated with the euro crisis five years ago."

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With tensions clearly running high across the country's finance departments, it's perhaps unsurprising nine out of ten (91 per cent) of those surveyed wanted a clear indication of what government's aims in the pending EU exit negotiations would be.

David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive of Deloitte, added: "Businesses recognise their important role in forming a positive future for the UK outside of the EU. They must play their part in the coming years, being proactive in finding ways to boost productivity and drive growth, manage the risks Brexit poses, take advantage of the opportunities it creates and make their voices clearly heard in the debates around the UK’s future relationships with Europe and the wider world."

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