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CFO Survey: Swedish CFOs show strong optimism despite continuing pandemic

In the autumn of 2020, Swedish CFOs were concerned about a second wave of Covid-19 and the effects this could potentially have. Looking back, we can say that both a second and third wave have occurred since then, but that large Swedish corporations are standing strong and have a positive view of the immediate future.

The CFO Survey is conducted twice a year and aims to highlight changes in sentiment among Swedish CFOs and compare these with the trend in the rest of Europe. In this spring’s survey we see, among other things, that the views on business opportunities have improved compared with last autumn, that CFOs view organic growth as the main priority area, and that the overall level of external financial and economic uncertainty for companies is considered to have decreased.

“For the first time in the last five surveys we saw a decrease in uncertainty, and it is considerable with a net balance of 8 per cent compared with 42 per cent in autumn 2020,” comments Robert Bergström, Partner at Deloitte. “Sweden sticks out in Europe with the third lowest level of uncertainty of all 18 countries included in the survey.”

Clear differences between sectors
From a sector perspective it is clear that the manufacturing industries and construction, which were affected the least by the pandemic, are also the most optimistic about business opportunities going forward. We see also that optimism among large corporates is greatest among the largest and smallest companies in this segment, and that the business opportunities in general are considered to be the most favourable in sectors not related to household consumption.

The main risks remain
Pressure on prices and margins, economic growth, and weak domestic demand are still the three most significant risks in the coming 12 months, according to Swedish CFOs, albeit with a considerable decline in the view with respect to the two latter risk factors. A shortage of qualified people has once again climbed up on CFOs’ agendas – which is in direct contrast to the surveys conducted in 2020.

Mergers and acquisitions expected to increase
CFOs have noted a pent-up demand for M&A activity following the pandemic and 64 per cent of CFOs expect to see a higher level of M&A activity in the coming 12 months. We have not seen such a high level in any previous survey.

Remote work: A trend that’s here to stay?
The spring survey highlights the extent to which remote work will continue after the pandemic as well as the pandemic’s impact on global supply chains. During the entire pandemic, its more permanent effects have been discussed at length.

“Is ‘the work from home’ trend here to stay? And how can employers organise a decentralised workforce? When we asked CFOs, the answers were – perhaps a little surprisingly – that the changes may not be as great as many believe or hope,” says Marcus Widén, Economist at SEB.

In summary, Swedish CFOs are optimistic about their businesses in the phase that the pandemic is currently in – with broad vaccination programmes under way and hopes for a strong and rapid global recovery – and many indicators in the survey have improved considerably since last autumn. Compared with the rest of Europe we can see that, on most key performance indicators, the Swedish responses are unusually close to the European average, except for the views on uncertainty, where CFOs in Sweden thus have a considerably more positive view.

Find more insights at www.cfosurvey.se

About the CFO Survey
The Deloitte/SEB CFO Survey aims to highlight changes in sentiment among Swedish CFOs, various sectors, and compared with the general sentiment in the rest of Europe and thereby convey an understanding of economic and financial trends. It is published twice yearly and is conducted in Sweden and in 18 other European countries. For the complete report, visit www.cfosurvey.se

For more information, please contact:
Marcus Widén, Economist, SEB
+46 70 639 1057

Press contact:
Niklas Magnusson, Group Press Officer
+46 70 763 8243

SEB is a leading northern European financial services group with a strong belief that entrepreneurial minds and innovative companies are key in creating a better world. SEB takes a long-term perspective and supports its customers in good times and bad. In Sweden and the Baltic countries, SEB offers financial advice and a wide range of financial services. In Denmark, Finland, Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom, the bank's operations have a strong focus on corporate and investment banking based on a full-service offering to corporate and institutional clients. The international nature of SEB's business is reflected in its presence in some 20 countries worldwide. At 31 March 2021, the Group's total assets amounted to SEK 3,443bn while its assets under management totalled SEK 2,243bn. The Group has around 15,500 employees Read more about SEB at https://www.sebgroup.com