Decreased revenues and profits weigh on finance pros during coronavirus

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Managing cash flow has become the top priority for financial professionals as their businesses have seen significant drops in cash flow, revenue and profits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey.

The survey, by tax and accounting technology companies Avalara and Zuora, found that more than 50 percent of the 400 respondents cited managing cash flows as their top priority at the onset of the pandemic and even more of them have seen a significant reduction in their organization's cash flow during COVID-19. Eighty percent of the financial professionals polled said they have been very or somewhat involved in their company’s internal and external response to the pandemic.

Decreased revenue and profit was the top concern cited by the respondents at 49 percent, followed by decreased customer acquisition at retention at 21 percent, staffing changes (such as layoffs, paid leave, etc.) at 13 percent, supply chain disruptions at 9 percent, cost containment at 4 percent, and loss of employee productivity at 4 percent.

  • Ninety percent of the finance pros surveyed said they’re somewhat or very concerned about predictions of a recurrence or a second wave of COVID-19. Health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned last week that “we are still knee-deep in the first wave.”

When asked if their company had to make any cuts or changes to expenditures as a result of COVID-19 impacts, 59 percent cited marketing and sales expenses, 49 percent cited employee and personnel expenses, and 31 percent cited technology expenses.

When asked about financial relief measures, the majority of businesses have taken advantage of business support loans and tax relief measures. Specifically, 43 percent of the respondents said they had used business support loans, 36 percent had taken advantage of tax or duty relief (such as deferments, delays, and penalty or interest waivers), 23 percent had benefited from jobs retention schemes, and 5 percent had used utility fee waivers.

Survey respondents were also asked how their priorities shifted in the wake of COVID-19. The top three responses included managing cash flows (57 percent), collections and payments (48 percent), and forecasting and metrics (45 percent). Other top responses included billing and invoices (23 percent) and headcount planning (15 percent).

Survey respondents were asked to choose the top three functions that have become a priority during COVID-19. The top three functions included billing and invoicing at 33 percent, collection and payments at 28 percent, and forecasting and metrics reporting at 28 percent.

Nearly 50 percent of finance professionals said that finance automation technology has helped their business handle the financial changes that have arisen since COVID-19. Customers topped the list of the audiences that are priority for finance today, with 60 percent of the respondents saying that customers have been seeking delayed payments and/or credits for their company’s services. However, that can have downstream effects on both cash flow and keeping the books in order.

Of those surveyed, 47 percent indicated that finance automation technology (ecommerce platforms, point-of-sale systems, tax compliance software, subscription billing software, etc.) has helped their business handle the financial changes that came with COVID-19.

The top three types of finance automation technology respondents have found to be the most helpful included e-commerce platforms at 36 percent, subscription billing software at 25 percent, and tax compliance technology at 18 percent.

Sixty percent of the survey respondents said their customers have sought delayed payments and/or credits for their services during the pandemic. When asked what percentage of customers requested delayed payments and/or credits, the majority of respondents said that less than a quarter of their customers have made those requests.

The responses were similar when the poll asked what percentage of customers have paused services during this time. Seventy percent of the respondents said their revenue has been impacted in some way due to delayed customer payments, credits and/or cancellations.-

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