Data Also Shows Significant Caution from CFOs on Potential Reopening Plans

A Gartner, Inc. survey of 99 CFOs and finance leaders taken April 14-19, 2020* revealed that 42% of CFOs are not incorporating a second wave outbreak of COVID-19 in the financial scenarios they are building for the remainder of 2020.

Additional survey data showed that that only 8% of CFOs have a second wave factored into all their planning scenarios, and only 22% have a second wave factored into their “most likely” scenario. The lack of planning comes even as CFOs express a cautious approach as to when they will fully reopen their operations and bring employees back to their normal office routines.

“As CFOs are attempting to project revenue and profits for 2020, it’s surprising that 42% are not baking a second wave of COVID-19 into any of their scenarios” said Alexander Bant, practice vice president, research, for the Gartner Finance practice. “Our latest CFO data also reveals that most executive teams are still trying to decide what factors they should use to determine how and when to reopen their offices and facilities.”

While 81% of CFOs report that they will look to state and local authorities for clearance on when to restart their operations, 55% of CFOs reported that they will take a measured approach as to when their employees will return to offices, while 44% are unsure how employees will be brought back to work (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1: “For employees who are not working from their normal office or/or facility, once their office and/or facilities are re-opened, how will employees be brought back into work?”

Source: Gartner (April 2020)

A growing concern among CFOs about the pandemic’s duration, severity and related macroeconomic implications may be contributing to a disconnect between when CFOs perceive they are allowed to reopen their facilities for business, compared with their own specific plans for accelerating employees return to physical locations.  

“Many CFOs seem to be conscious of moving too quickly, with only 4% of CFOs telling Gartner that their organizations will require employees to immediately return to the office, even after receiving approval from state and local authorities to reopen their physical facilities,” said Bant.

Worries About Revenue Decline, As Pandemic Concerns Mount

Despite the lack of contingency planning for a second wave of COVID-19, CFOs have clearly become more concerned about the risks associated with the pandemic broadly, with CFOs citing “macro-pandemic concerns” as their top concern at more than double the rate they did at the beginning of April. These concerns have grown while fears about revenue losses and employee management issues, such as productivity losses and meeting payroll, have declined.

The concerns about the big picture implications of the pandemic have grown to tie cash flow worries as the top concern cited by CFOs in April about the COVID-19 crisis, with each category selected by 28% of the CFOs surveyed.

Gartner clients can read more in Benchmarks on CFO Actions in Response to COVID-19: Week of 20 April 2020.

Non clients can read more here and find a selection of coronavirus-related resources here.