Eurozone anxiety grows as Dutch business looks ahead

Former optimism slips as the situation in Europe and globally proves a cause for concern

Dutch business leaders’ optimism has lost some of its shine in the past 12 months, recognising dangers which seemed to represent much less of a threat only a year ago. That is the clear message to emerge from this year’s Eden McCallum economic outlook survey of 193 senior Dutch business leaders.

A few key findings from this year’s survey:

  • 35% of respondents are pessimistic about prospects for the eurozone in the next 1-2 years, up from only 7% a year ago
  • 74% of Dutch businesses are expecting a eurozone crisis in the near future, as opposed to 55% last year
  • 34% are also pessimistic about the global economic outlook for the next 1-2 years, also up from 7% this time last year
  • 84% think that Brexit will be bad for the EU

The Eden McCallum economic outlook survey has found that a somewhat darker mood has descended on Dutch business leaders over the past year.

67% of respondents now feel that the impact of Donald Trump on the Dutch economy will be bad or very bad, up from 55% last year and 44% in 2016. 89% think he will be bad for the global economy.

36% of respondents are holding off from making some investments until they see what the impact of Brexit will be. 39% think Brexit will be bad for their business, and 75% expect it to be bad for the Dutch economy. At the same time, 47% of Dutch businesses say they are carrying on with business as usual and not worrying about Brexit.

In the domestic economy, 69% of Dutch businesses remain optimistic or very optimistic about prospects at home. But that is way down from last year’s extraordinary 91% optimism score and the 80% figure registered in 2016.

Heleen Wachters, Eden McCallum Partner, says: “No-one in Europe will be immune from the consequences of Brexit and uncertainty in the eurozone and beyond. Worries over the Italian budget are clearly adding to nervousness over the eurozone’s prospects. Dutch business has maintained healthy optimism so far, but it seems the mood is changing.”

If it is any consolation, scepticism in the Netherlands looks positively rosy when compared with the deep gloom felt by UK businesses, according to a survey of 192 senior UK executives carried out by Eden McCallum at the same time as the Dutch survey.

In the UK findings, 82% of respondents are either “pessimistic” or “very pessimistic” about the UK’s economic outlook over the next 1-2 years; 27% of respondents are very pessimistic (up from 17% this time last year). 83% think that leaving the EU will be bad for Britain. 38% are holding back on investment in the UK. And 61% are finding it harder to recruit non-UK European talent.

While the politics in the UK remain highly volatile and unpredictable, UK business is bracing itself for a sudden shock. Dutch business may not be as seriously affected by Brexit, but it does not help improve anyone’s outlook.

Marjon Wanders, Eden McCallum Partner, says: “Successful business leaders tend to be optimistic people who do not entertain too much negative thinking. We should not expect this year’s heightened gloom to last. But it is sobering that so many usually positive leaders are currently experiencing these levels of concern at this testing time for our economy.”

Eden McCallum’s Economic Outlook Survey

Eden McCallum’s survey was conducted online with their clients and other business leaders between 19th and 26th November 2018, and at the same time of year in the previous 5 years.

In 2018 there were 193 respondents to the Dutch survey. 75% of respondents are Chairs, CEOs/MDs, Board Directors, Divisional Directors, VP/Partners, or Heads of function, within publicly-listed companies (31% of respondents), privately-held companies (56%), and other types of organisation (13%).