"They're struggling with, how do you provide guidance when you simply don't have the answer?"
There were 313 respondents to the survey of U.S. executives, from the technology, financial services, media and telecommunications, and industrial products and consumer markets sectors.
The survey audience did not include enough automotive CFOs to extrapolate auto industry-specific perspectives.
The survey found that:
- 67 percent of companies are considering deferring or canceling planned investments.
- 61 percent of the CFOs believe they could return to business as usual within three months — if COVID-19 were to end immediately.
- 49 percent say their company plans to take advantage of government relief programs.
- 46 percent anticipate that a lack of remote work capabilities will lead to productivity loss.
- 26 percent say their company expects layoffs over the next month.
"It's hard to find a company who is not focused on managing costs, relooking at investments, focusing on liquidity, preserving capital and accessing, where appropriate, the CARES Act," Ryan said, referring to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Not only is the CFO sentiment increasingly negative, said Amity Millhiser, PwC's chief clients officer, but there's far less confidence that companies will bounce back quickly once the crisis is over.
"Across the board, they're much less confident in that," Millhiser said. "The biggest change is that CFOs really believe this will have a lasting impact on their business. It will take longer to return to business as usual."
Adding to that challenge, Millhiser noted, is that in certain industries, "business as usual will also look very different going forward."
The survey released last week is the third PwC has conducted on the subject.