Finance chiefs recover some poise after election shock but remain cautious

 
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The Prime Minister Holds A Cabinet Meeting At Chequers
CFOs have recovered from the shock of May's reduced majority (Source: Getty)

Finance bosses have cheered up since this summer’s election, although they remain focused on cutting costs from their businesses in the face of global uncertainty, according to a new survey.

Just over a quarter of chief financial officers feel more optimistic about the prospects for their firm compared to three months ago, up from 18 per cent in the immediate aftermath of the snap election in June.

These hopeful executives are balanced out by 27 per cent who feel less optimistic about their company, although the portion of gloomy CFOs has fallen from 42 per cent, Deloitte’s quarterly poll of more than 100 chief financial officers found.

Read more: Risk back on as finance chiefs’ optimism hits an 18-month high

Despite this bounce in optimism, rising inflation and patchy economic data have left finance chiefs cautious about big decisions.

Just 24 per cent see now as a good time to add risk to the balance sheet, up two points in the past quarter but well below the long-term average, and more than four in ten see cost-cutting as their top priority.

Few finance bosses expect to see a spending spree any time soon, with just 12 per cent predicting a rise in recruitment among big companies in the next three months. Some 22 per cent expect large companies generally to increase capital expenditure, while only 17 per cent see a splurge happening at their own company.

A third say that the level of uncertainty facing their business is high or very high, compared to around 20 per cent at the start of 2016.

Six in ten of the FTSE 350 finance leaders polled believe the business environment will be worse once the UK leaves the European Union, although this has come down from 72 per cent three months ago.

“It is testament to the changeable business environment that, eight years into the UK recovery, CFOs remain on a cautious footing with cost control still the number one balance sheet priority,” said Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte.

A whopping 92 per cent of respondents expect interest rates to rise within a year.

Read more: Will UK interest rates rise next month?

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