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Half of all Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) surveyed by CFO, the leading media brand in the United States catering to influential finance executives, said they expect a “V-shaped” recovery or a return to normal economic activity in the third quarter of 2020. Approximately 40% of CFOs projected a longer period of slower economic activity, extending into 2021, signaling a “U-shaped” recovery. Only 9% of respondents expect a sustained period of recession, with economic activity not picking up until 2022.

The survey, which was conducted by CFO Research from March 26–April 2, was based on responses from 333 senior finance executives.

“While every CFO estimates a drop in first-quarter sales as a result of the economic impact from COVID-19, the vast majority are optimistic the economy will return to normal by next year,” said Vincent Ryan, Editor-in-Chief of CFO. “To address cash flow concerns — a top issue for CFOs — they are taking immediate action, from slowing investments to tapping credit lines to weather the crisis. And although they have a positive outlook, many are making near-term changes in headcount.”

Impact on Sales

More than half (53%) of finance executives said they estimated a first-quarter drop of between 1% and 20%. About 22% of finance executives indicated the hit to sales would be larger — a falloff of between 21% and 50%. And 17% of respondents expected a drop of 41% or more.

Reduced Spending

Nearly half (49%) of the finance executives surveyed indicated that their organization was “scaling back” or delaying investments while 47% were working on improving their liquidity positions. One-fifth (20%) of respondents indicated they were shutting down or idling some operations.

Headcount Uncertainty

About one-third (35%) of respondents indicated that they were laying off or furloughing employees. Most of those respondents, however, said they didn’t know how many employees would be affected by the economic fallout. More than one-third (36%) said they planned to cut 15% or less of their employee base. Less than one-fifth (17%) of respondents said layoffs would affect 20% or more of their workforce.

“CFOs, as stewards of the company’s assets, have to be prepared for the downside scenario. Yet, they aren’t losing sight of the human cost of this global pandemic, protecting employees and conserving cash to keep the bulk of their people employed,” added Ryan.

About CFO

CFO, the leading media brand in the United States catering to influential finance executives who collectively control trillions of spend annually, is part of Argyle Group, a business-to-business media and event services company connecting businesses with customers through its multimedia platforms. The award-winning CFO Magazine,, and CFO Research provide insights into the most pressing issues in corporate finance as well as practical advice and innovative thinking on the technological forces that are disrupting industries and transforming the chief financial officer’s role.