A Gartner survey of 145 CFOs and senior finance leaders on April 12, 2020 revealed 51% of respondents said they were preparing for a revenue contraction of up to 30% this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The research firm said the 28% of respondents believe the impact to their organization’s revenue could be higher than 30%
“Most CFOs have told us they are using the most severe downside scenarios to inform their decisions right now. This is leading CFOs to consider drastic cost management actions across April and May”, said Alexander Bant, practice vice president, research, for the Gartner Finance Practice.
Impact on long-term investment
When CFOs were asked how these downside scenarios are impacting their ability to fund long-term growth investments, 70% of CFOs said they are now showing caution in this area, Bant added.
While 15% of CFOs were planning to completely suspend all or most long-term investments, half (50%) said they were suspending them on a selective basis, according to survey results.
An additional 30% said they had no plans to suspend most investments, and the remaining 5% said they are already replacing previous long-term investments with new investments.
“We know from studying companies that were successful during prior business cycle turns, that investing in growth bets ahead of curve is vital to come out on top,” said Bant. “Right now, we see CFOs clamping down on funding for these growth bets. The companies that emerge as leaders in their industry will quickly pivot and replace previous long-term growth investments with new ones. Currently though, only 5% of companies appear to be making these changes.”
CFOs need to spend more time on the front line
For CFOs to guide the business through rethinking these investments, they need a solid theory of how their customer is changing, Gartner pointed out.
In normal conditions, the most effective CFOs spend between 5-10% of their time with customers, the research firm noted.
In crisis mode, Gartner recommends CFOs to spend more time on the front line listening to how their key customers are modeling out the recovery and what things will change.
Coping with the pandemic
CFOs also indicated in the poll that most expect little or no delay to closing their books at the end of Q1.
Just 3% expected a delay of more than three days, 65% expected no delay, and 28% expected a delay of three days or less.
“These results show that the finance function is generally coping well with remote working and is able to carry out a lot of work as usual,” said Bant noted. “In fact, recent data from another Gartner poll showed CFOs warming to the idea of remote working as a cost management tactic.”