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Join me, and my guest, Deloitte CEO Richard Houston, for our spring economic update webinar on Tuesday, 26 April, at 13:00 BST where we will assess the economic outlook and discuss how business can navigate the challenges ahead.

To join, please register: https://event.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1544245&tp_key=872b418f50

Today’s briefing summarises the findings of the latest Deloitte survey of Chief Financial Officers which was released overnight. The full report is available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/finance/articles/deloitte-cfo-survey.html

Geopolitical uncertainties following the invasion of Ukraine and high inflation mean that the external risks facing business are greater today than at any time in the last seven years, according to the Chief Financial Officers of the UK’s largest companies. Geopolitics and inflation now far eclipse Brexit and the pandemic, which have dominated the list of CFO concerns in recent years.

Rising inflation is the great challenge for business, with CFOs’ expectations for operating costs at a record high. Just two years ago a majority of CFOs anticipated a decline in costs, now 98% expect them to rise. More than a quarter of CFOs reported significant or severe supply chain disruption in the last three months and more than a third faced significant or severe recruitment difficulties.

CFOs expect supply chain and recruitment problems to moderate, but persist, and are increasingly concerned about the longer-term outlook for inflation. Most CFOs do not expect the Bank of England to succeed in returning inflation to its 2.0% target within its two-year forecasting horizon, indeed almost 80% of our respondents expect inflation to exceed 2.5% in two years’ time. A mix of rising costs and slower growth is set to squeeze margins, with 71% of CFOs expecting margins to decline in the next 12 months.

The 13 years in which the CFO Survey has been running have been a period of unimagined risk with a succession of shocks, starting with the financial crisis, through Brexit, geopolitical tensions, deflation and inflation, the pandemic and now war in Europe. For CFOs, external uncertainty is a fact of life and has to be managed and mitigated. Despite the risks facing business today, CFOs remain upbeat on the prospects for revenue growth, with three-quarters expecting revenues to be higher in a years’ time. Introducing new products or services or entering new markets remain their top priority. And, while expectations for capital spending are down from the all-time highs seen last quarter, they remain well above the long-term average.

Inflation, rising interest rates and geopolitical uncertainty pose a growing threat to the recovery. CFOs are alive to the risks but continue to expect revenues and their own investment to grow.