Levels of optimism among finance chiefs across Europe have improved, according to the latest survey of European CFOs carried out by Deloitte.

In March, the group surveyed 1,559 CFOs based in 19 countries.

The majority of CFOs across all countries said they feel more optimistic about their company's financial prospects.

Some CFOs said they expect profits to increase by this September.

According to the research, key focus areas are to increase investment, increase workforce and focus on sustainability.

The majority of Irish CFOs said Brexit has resulted in no additional impact beyond what was previously forecasted.

Daniel Gaffney, Partner, Deloitte Ireland said the study reveals that the majority of Irish CFOs intend to increase employee numbers over the next 12 months.

"On a European level, one-third of CFOs surveyed mention shortages of skilled labour as one of their top three concerns which is also reflected in the Irish responses," he said.

While cost reductions remain a focus, investment intentions have surged.

Almost half of European CFOs surveyed are planning to increase their capital expenditures over the next 12 months, with only 14% planning a reduction.

The panmdeic brought with it new demands related to workers' and customers' safety as well as a need to increase digital interaction - all of which require investment in new equipment, automation and digital technologies.

The survey also reveals an increased focus on environmental and sustainability factors.

"With many economies focusing on carbon neutrality, there is growing pressure on companies to focus on sustainability, which means more investment in analytics, efficient equipment and environmentally friendly buildings, to name a few," said Mr Gaffney.

"The combination of the two trends, digital and environmental, means future investment in these areas is likely to be higher than in recent years," he added.

Mr Gaffney said much of the ability of businesses to emerge from the crisis in a stronger position depends on their capacity to invest wisely - in people as well as in technology.

"Most important is the ability to look to the future and formulate a bold longer-term strategic vision.

"In this regard CFOs will play a more important role, providing the information and tools that can enable companies to make sound decisions," he said.