65 percent CEOs remain confident amidst heightened uncertainty in the global economy, while viewing disruptive forces as an opportunity, not a threat, for their business. This finding was revealed by KPMG International in its latest release, 2017 Global CEO Outlook based on in-depth interviews with nearly 1,300 CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies.
CEOs are still broadly confident about the prospects for the global economy, but their optimism is more modest than it was last year, with 65 percent expressing confidence compared with 80 percent last year.
“Disruption has become a fact of life for CEOs and their businesses as they respond to heightened uncertainty,” says John Veihmeyer, Global Chairman of KPMG. “But importantly, most see disruption as an opportunity to transform their business model, develop new products and services, and reshape their business so it is more successful than ever before. In the face of new challenges and uncertainties, CEOs are feeling urgency to ‘disrupt and grow’.”
KPMG’s 2017 Global CEO Outlook report provides insights of global CEOs’ expectations for business growth, the challenges they face and their strategies to chart organisational success over the next 3 years.
“CEOs understand that speed to market and innovation are strategic priorities for growth in uncertain conditions,” says Veihmeyer. “At the same time, they are being pragmatic about managing uncertainty – this includes strengthening their business in established markets so they can protect their bottom line while preparing to seize new opportunities.”
A changing geopolitical climate
The annual study by KPMG International of nearly 1,300 CEOs from companies across 11 industries in 10 countries found that many CEOs are focused on geopolitical challenges:
The evolving risk landscape
One of the most striking changes in this year’s survey is the rise in the number of CEOs who cite reputational and brand risk as a top current concern. This is the third most important risk (out of 16 in total), after not featuring in the top 10 in 2016.
CEOs also see reputation and brand risk as having the second biggest potential impact on growth over the next 3 years, which is a change in ranking from seventh out of 10 in 2016.
Cyber security, which CEOs ranked at the top risk in 2016, has this year fallen to position 5 (of 16), in part, reflecting CEO views on the progress their business has made in cyber risk management. Today, four in 10 (42 percent) say they feel adequately prepared for a cyber event – up from 25 percent in 2016.
Technology challenges: A battle for talent
Contrary to popular view, on average, 58 percent of CEOs actually expect cognitive technologies to increase headcount across 10 key types of roles in the immediate future. While 32 percent expect this growth to be slight, there is still a clear expectation that more specialist employees will be needed, at least in the short term.
This would suggest that client experience, not cost reduction, is seen by CEOs as a key driver in adopting cognitive technologies. Attracting highly skilled talent – instead of managing technical issues around the technology itself is seen by CEOs as the top challenge in implementing cognitive technologies.
More generally, CEOs expect headcounts to continue growing, but to grow at a slower pace than expected in 2016. Last year, 73 percent of CEOs expected their number of employees to increase by more than 6 percent in the next 3 years. In 2017, less than half (47 percent) expect this level of growth.
While CEOs are focusing on evolving their businesses, they are also evolving their own role – 70 percent of CEOs say they are now more open to new influences and collaborations than at any other point in their career.
A focus on trust
In light of operating within an increasingly transparent business environment, three quarters of CEOs (74 percent) say their organization is placing greater importance on trust, values and culture in order to sustain its long-term future. CEOs are seeing this trend continue for the immediate future: 65 percent agreed that levels of trust in business will stay the same or decline in the next 3 years.
More than seven in 10 (72 percent) correlate being a more empathetic organisation with higher earnings. Companies today are increasingly realising that building trust is consistent with their business objectives.
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