Agency financial chiefs now expect no return to office before September

Working from home: 64% of financial directors do not expect to return to office before September
Working from home: 64% of financial directors do not expect to return to office before September

Study also shows improved forecast in income.

Most agency financial chiefs now expect not to return to the office before September – but fewer are anticipating a severe hit to their revenue than a month ago, according to research from wealth management company Connor Broadley.

Conducted via a live forum this week, the company found that two-thirds (64%) of chief financial officers and financial directors surveyed do not expect to return to the office before September, compared with one in six (17%) in a previous survey that took place on 9 April.

The study also found a slightly improved forecast in income, with only a third of participants now predicting their income for the current financial year would decline by more than 20%, down from 45% of respondents in April. There was also a slight improvement in the profit margin financial chiefs expected to see this year.

Alongside this, three in five finance chiefs now say they are definitely not worried about the future viability of their company, up from two in five in the previous survey, while twice as many (52% compared with 27%) said it was too early to be sure.

However, as the pandemic and developing economic crisis has progressed, agencies are turning to both redunancies and furloughing in response.

The proportion of agencies that have engaged in redundancies has more than doubled from 26% to 55%, while those saying they have or will use the government's furlough scheme rose from 52% to 77%.

Following the research, one anonymous financial director said: "The return-to-work timelines are pushing out, but thankfully so too are furlough support timelines. I am confident in the ability to manage costs against reduced activity to protect some margin this year, but not yet confident on the pace or timing of a return to pre-Covid income levels."

Another said: "Things seem to be a little calmer just now. Hopefully, there will neither be a second wave of the virus or of client income adjustments." 

Unsurprisingly, 91% of participants admitted that they are finding operating throughout the coronavirus more stressful than before the pandemic.

Colin Fleming, chief operating officer at Connor Broadley, said: "A month on from our original research, financial directors surveyed now expect a slower return to work. 

"Wider engagement with furloughing and other cost controls, however, have seen a slight uptick in business confidence, with the increase in respondents’ belief in the longer-term survivability of their agencies a real positive."

On Tuesday, a report by the World Federation of Advertisers found that 52% of multinationals are holding back adspend for six months or more because of the coronavirus crisis.

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