Hong Kong finance executives anticipate strong economic growth

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Hong Kong’s top finance decision makers appeared to be feeling optimistic when they participated in the American Express Global Business and Spending Monitor 2017. They had the most positive outlook among those surveyed from around the globei, and they were the most confident that the economy would grow this year.

Among the local respondents, 80% were expecting modest or even substantial economic expansion during the rest of the year, up from 30% in last year’s survey.

Local finance decision makers have become less cautious about increasing spending and investments. Only 37% said they were more cautious due to domestic uncertainty, down from 66% one year ago. As was the case in last year’s survey, respondents saw external uncertainty outside Hong Kong as a greater reason for caution then domestic uncertainty.

Remaining competitive was the most important business priority for 47% of respondents, and they’re prepared to invest to do that. All CFOs expected an increase in investment in 2017, with 46% predicting an increase of between 4% and 8%.

If businesses want to stay agile, they need to adapt to changes in political and economic situations. Businesses should have processes in place that allow them to quickly evaluate the implications of various global events - whether they come from a new U.S. Administration, the Brexit implementation, a new French President, or a new Chief Executive here in Hong Kong.

Data analytics are a growing part of that, with 90% of CFOs agreeing that data analytics are worth the investment for decisions to sustain business growth, while 70% said that in the next five years, access to sophisticated data analytics will be the most important consideration during decision making.

Cash flow is still king. Improving cash flow and working capital management were important success metrics according to 87% of those surveyed. A total of 93% considered these metrics to be even more important than they did a year ago. With effective cash flow management, companies will be able to develop sustainable, ethical and transparent business practices.

The survey painted a positive picture of how Hong Kong finance chiefs view the near term future. I was encouraged by how many of them recognize the importance of investing in technology that improves cash flow, transparency and efficiency for their businesses. It gives me confidence in the future of Hong Kong business.

Stephen Pendergast, Vice President and General Manager, Global Commercial Payments, Hong Kong and Taiwan, American Express International, Inc.

iThe 2017 Global Business & Spending Outlook was conducted by Institutional Investor Thought Leadership Studio (IITLS) and is based on a survey of 650 senior finance executives from companies around the world with annual revenues of $500 million or more. All survey responses were gathered after the 2016 U.S. election, in late November and early December 2016. IITLS estimates the margin of error for this population to be approximately +/-3.8% at a 95% level of confidence.

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