TORONTO: Canadian businesses are focused on spending to boost their competitive advantage this year amid an increasingly unpredictable global context, according to a 2017 survey of Canadian senior finance executives.
The 2017 Global Business and Spending Outlook commissioned by American Express in partnership with Institutional Investor Custom Research Group, revealed Canadian finance executives share a concern over the potential impact of unanticipated events unfolding globally. In fact, all (100%) Canadian finance executives participating in the study believe the prospect of surprise economic, environmental or political events could have a negative effect on their business, with forty-three per cent strongly agreeing that it is a rapidly growing concern.
Despite these worries, Canadian finance executives are more optimistic about their company's growth than their global counterparts. More than half of respondents from Canada (57%) say they expect to see substantial economic expansion over the next year, compared to only 38% of finance executives polled globally.
To help mitigate ever-changing market conditions, senior finance executives are also playing a more significant role when it comes to influencing strategic business decisions. In fact, almost all (97%) respondents say the most senior financial officer in their company wields more influence over strategic decision making than their chief executive officer.
"The survey suggests Canadian finance executives aren't shying away from increasing competition and uncertainty in the market, but rather making strategic investments to keep their organizations at the forefront," says Paul Roman, Vice President & General Manager, Global Commercial Payments at American Express Canada. "The role of the modern CFO expands far beyond fiscal responsibility to include automation, international trade, strategic investment planning and more."
It's with this increased influence that, according to the survey, 97 per cent of Canadian financial executives expect to increase spending to make improvements across the board to fend of the competition and strengthen their company's competitive advantage in today's market. Moreover, one-third (37%) say they plan to spend aggressively to boost top-line revenue.
Tackling competition with a focus on customer service
Plans to increase spending appear to be driven in large part by a renewed focus on customer service, according to the survey. In total, 90 per cent of Canadian finance executives say that pressure to compete on the quality of their customer service has increased over the last two years. As a direct result, 90 per cent say their company will spend more money on customer service this year compared to last.
Improving cash flow management a strategic priority
Canadian finance executives are also recognizing the impact that cash and working-capital management can have on their company. As such, finance executives are making it a strategic priority as 90% agree it's more important this year compared to last.
In fact, those surveyed believe that improving end-to-end visibility of transaction processes (93%), use of credit and corporate card float (47%) and the ability to negotiate with suppliers and customers (43%) would yield a significant financial benefit.
"We work with financial executives across the country to help them understand the strategic value of improving cash flow and working capital management," Roman explains. "When used effectively and strategically, these underused forms of capital can become catalysts for growth, helping to improve supplier relationships, enhance processes and increase financial flexibility, ultimately giving companies the advantage they need to remain competitive and grow."
Cautiously committed to international growth
While over two-thirds (67%) agree recent economic or political uncertainty outside of Canada is making them more cautious about investing in other countries, nine in ten (90%) say they expect exports to be important for their company's growth over the next year, this compared to only 63 per cent of those finance executives surveyed globally. Additionally, just under two-thirds (60%) they plan to spend more to enter new markets this year.
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