With the new international trade regulations, periods of economic fluctuation and the importance of managing the effects of disruptive technology, there is no shortage of challenges facing financial leaders in Canada’s largest companies. Yet, despite these geopolitical and economic concerns, these leaders remain optimistic and focused on growing their businesses.
These observations are based on the results of the American Express 2019 Global Business & Spending Outlook1 — an annual survey of financial leaders from companies around the world, including around thirty from Canada. The survey is designed to gauge how these leaders approach a variety of topics, including technology, automation, international trade and operations management.
Global risks: A major concern
It is no surprise that current geopolitical threats are at the top of the list of concerns held by Canadian senior financial leaders. Almost two-thirds (70%) of survey respondents admitted that they were increasingly concerned that an unexpected external event could have a negative effect on their company. However, just over half of these respondents suggested that this issue has led them to be more cautious in their spending and investments. Therefore, only 33% of respondents expect to increase their spending by more than 10%.
“Canada’s senior financial leaders fear that geopolitical issues such as unresolved trade agreements and the dark clouds hanging over the global economy are affecting their companies,” said Paul Roman, Vice President and General Manager of Global Commercial Payments at American Express Canada. “But they continue to be pragmatic, striving to remain optimistic about their plans for growth.”
International trade: A growth factor
International expansion remains a priority for Canada’s senior financial leaders, despite their fears. In particular, 70% believe that exports will play an even greater role in their company next year. In addition, more than two thirds of them (67%) see a correlation between economic growth and increased imports from sellers and external suppliers outside of Canada. This shows a clear increase compared to 30% in 2018.
Improved financial management: A new priority
Optimizing cash flow and working capital management is a growth strategy that finance specialists recognize as being particularly efficient. As such, it is not surprising that 97% of respondents say that these two elements will be increasingly important to their company in 2019 — four times as many as the 23% who held this view in 2018.
The vast majority of respondents (87%) also agree that negotiating with suppliers and customers has a positive impact on working capital and brings about other substantial financial benefits.
“It is important for companies to see cash flow as a source of growth capital and a strategic solution for maximizing payment methods,” said Mr. Roman. “Focusing on ways to optimize cash flow can lead to process improvements at all levels, ultimately providing companies with the financial flexibility they need to grow.”
Investing in technology: An essential choice
Some organizations may find it difficult to cope with a constantly changing technological landscape. With 47% of leaders convinced that next-generation technology will significantly disrupt their industry’s competitive dynamics, it is clear that a growing number of companies consider technology a priority. For this reason, financial directors are already investing in this area, specifically in artificial intelligence (57%) and the Internet of Things (50%). Regarding artificial intelligence, 35% highlighted that their company is already benefitting from this.
Financial directors understand that they need a skilled team in order to be at the cutting edge. As a result, 30% expect to invest heavily in recruiting new employees who are specialized in the latest technology and automation. In addition, almost half of them will invest in training existing company employees.
In view of the current commercial, economic and political environment, it is more important than ever to adopt proactive solutions in order to remain competitive in the long term. That is exactly what today’s financial leaders are doing. Whether it’s by taking the necessary measures to protect their company from external threats, refocusing on working capital management, or hiring the best talent, Canada’s financial leaders are making strategic changes to help maintain their growth this year and in future.
To learn more about the American Express 2019 Global Business & Spending Outlook, visit www.americanexpress.ca/spending-outlook-2019
1 Source: American Express 2019 Global Business & Spending Outlook 2019
This article was originally published by American Express Canada on Les Affaires on January 7, 2020. Service de contenu Les Affaires. Find it here
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.