Optimism from chief financial officers of large businesses for growth and expansion in the future is at a three year high, a Deloitte UK survey has found.

According to the survey, for the first time since 2011, expansion is a higher priority for chief financial officers (CFOs) than cutting costs or building up cash reserves.

One of the factors supporting investment in the next 12 months was the growth in the UK and EU economies.

Expanding into new markets and introducing new products and services was a high priority for 40% of CFO’s, compared to 29% who felt that reducing costs was a high priority for their organisation.

Increasing cash flow was a high priority for 35%, compared to a peak 49% in Q4 2012, while expectations for hiring, capital expenditure and discretionary spending in the next 12 months were at a 3 year high.

According to 54% of those polled, it was time to take risks on their balance sheets, up from 45% in Q2 and the highest level recorded in 6 years.

"The defensive strategies of cost cutting and cash accumulation that saw corporates through the global financial crisis are increasingly out of favour. The priority now is expansion and the balance-sheet cycle has turned decisively towards growth," Deloitte chief economist Ian Stewart said.

Although 62% of surveyed CFOs agreed that their organisations faced still serious financial and economic uncertainty, the rate goes down from the Q4 2011 high of 97%.

In addition, surveyed CFOs reported they thought there was only an 8% chance of a country leaving the euro. This was down from 37% in Q4 2011.

Some 82% of CFOs said interest rates will rise by 2015 in the UK, and they didn’t believe the Bank of England’s new forward guidance policy will keep interest rates on hold into 2016.

"In a reversal of the situation six months ago, CFOs believe that UK growth will have a more positive effect on their investment plans in the next year than growth in emerging markets or in the US, Japan and Asia Pacific," Stewart added.

The survey questioned 116 CFOs, including some from FTSE100 and FTSE250 companies.

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Deloitte UK