Four in 10 UK CFOs concerned about available cash flow within their business

25 June 2013
  • Cash flow particularly a concern for small and private companies (46%)
  • Six in 10 (61%) cite slow paying customers as the main reason for cash flow problems, compared to just 26% in 2011
  • CFOs in the North and Scotland are the most concerned about cash flow (48%)

London, 25 June 2013 – Cash flow remains a significant concern for a large number of UK CFOs, according to new research from leading recruitment specialist Robert Half UK.  More than four in 10 (41%) CFOs in a UK-wide survey said cash flow was one of the biggest internal concerns they currently face in their role. However, this figure rises to 46% for small and private companies.

On a regional basis, firms in the North and Scotland are the most concerned about cash flow, with nearly half (48%) saying they were concerned compared to those in London and the South East, where firms were the least concerned (37%). The North and Scotland also tops the regions for suffering from slow paying customers (71%) as well as from competitive pricing / low margins (54%).

When asked which three factors contributed to their concerns around cash flow, six in 10 (61%) CFOs cited slow paying customers as the main reason, a figure which has risen from just 26% in 2011. Following closely behind, more than four out of 10 (45%) blame customer / client insolvencies, competitive pricing / low margins (41%), higher business expenditures (40%), lower revenue (38%) and higher taxes (26%).

Interestingly, lower revenue is now less of an issue for companies compared to last year, decreasing to 38% in 2012 from 50% in 2011.

Phil Sheridan, Managing Director, Robert Half UK said: “Cash flow clearly remains a priority for finance leaders, particularly small and private companies who rely heavily on liquid capital to keep business running as usual. With half of all UK jobs coming from SME businesses, it is essential for these organisations to be supported to get the economy back on the right track.”

200 CFOs were asked: ‘What three factors have contributed towards your concerns around cash flow?’

Slow paying customers 61%
Customer / client insolvencies 45%
Competitive pricing / low margins 41%
Higher business expenditures 40%
Lower revenue 38%
Higher taxes 26%
Difficulty securing financing 23%
Higher cost of short-term financing 18%
Rapid growth / new investment opportunities 6%
R&D / new product development 1%

While fewer than one in four (23%) finance leaders are concerned over access to investment financing, CFOs offer their insights on the factors making it difficult for companies to secure credit and finance. At that top of this list is the business sector as nearly four in 10 (36%) say that operating in a perceived risky or depressed industry is the chief barrier to securing financing. This is followed by the perceived exposure to bad debt and risk (33%) and a poor credit rating (28%).

Sheridan concludes: "Access to financing has prompted cash flow concerns for one in four businesses and it is generally issues on a macro-level that are preventing organisations from securing the investment they need. Companies need to ensure they have the right talent in place to provide prudent financial management, making their businesses as attractive as possible for lending institutions."

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Notes to editors

About the Survey

1 The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 200 finance directors / CFOs across the UK. The survey was conducted in December 2012.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 350 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology and administrative professionals. Named one of the Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies to Work For, Robert Half offers workplace and job seeker resources at roberthalf.co.uk and twitter.com/roberthalfuk.