Stronger economies and availability of cash driving UK business growth

According to the research, compiled by American Express, Britain’s economy (58 per cent), the economies of other countries (54 per cent) and the availability of capital (52 per cent), were the three principal factors expected by CFOs to have a positive effect on company growth.

Despite the upcoming general election, 39 per cent of leaders in the UK also suggested domestic political changes, such as a difference in leadership, would have a positive effect on company growth. In comparison, only 14 per cent were convinced there would be a negative effect.

However, business leaders still seem resolute in spending their way back to fiscal health. Some 74 per cent plan to spend and invest “aggressively” over the next year. Last year only ten per cent had such plans in place, while 30 per cent favoured tight financial control.

The majority of CFOs see investment as essential to reaching their business goals, the most important of which were cited as remaining competitive with other countries, entering new markets and pursuing business innovation. Some 74 per cent of claimed they would have difficulty meeting customer needs if their companies don’t increase spending and investment.

Companies revealed a trend of targeting growth-oriented activities for additional investment. Cited as the most important areas, and tied at joint place, was the development of new products and services, and sales and marketing (41 per cent). This was followed by M&A activity (39 per cent) and the improvement of business intelligence and analytics (38 per cent).

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Brendan Walsh, executive vice president of global corporate payments at American Express, said: “UK businesses this year are clearly showing signs of steady economic growth. It is good to see the UK financial community’s positive attitude towards future economic prospects translated into strategic initiatives to increase spending and investment in 2015.”

The survey also shed some light on the perception of the CFO within the company. 

Some 52 per cent of UK leaders admitted that their CFOs provided “most value as a strategist”. CEOs are increasingly looking to place financial officers into roles where they would be analysing and interpreting financial data to guide decision-making. 

This may explain why 58 per cent suggested that it was “likely” for senior finance officers to move into a CEO or equivalent position. 

“For a long time now, the role of a CFO has extended beyond the finance function to broader business leadership,” said Walsh. “The finance viewpoint has always been an important factor in strategic and operational decisions, and it is good to see that UK companies increasingly recognise the CFOs key role in business decision-making.”

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