Global CEO Confidence Rises Despite New Risks, Uncertainty


Emma Okonji

A recent survey carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on 1,379 global CEOs from 79 countries of the world in December 2016, has revealed that chief executive officers (CEOs) of global companies, expressed confidence in the growth of their businesses in 2017, despite new risks and challenges that are associated with cyberspace.

According to the survey report, while CEOs around the world feel they have plenty to worry about in the new year, their confidence in their own growth prospects and their outlook for the global economy are back on the rise.

In the PwC’s 20th annual survey of CEOs worldwide, 38 per cent are very confident about their company’s growth prospects in the next 12 months while 29 per cent believe global economic growth will pick up in 2017.

The findings, which was released this month at the World Economic Forum in Davos show that while business leaders are more positive in their outlook, their levels of concern about economic uncertainty (82%), over-regulation (80%) availability of key skills (77%) remain very high. Also worries about protectionism are growing, with 59 per cent of CEO concerned about protectionism, increasing to 64 per cent for CEOs in the United States and Mexico.

While positive on the benefits of globalisation in building the free movement of capital, goods, and people, CEOs questioned whether globalisation had done anything to close the gap between rich and poor or mitigated the issue of climate change. This is in contrast to the first PwC CEO survey in 1998 when CEOs were positive about the drivers of globalisation, according to the Global Chairman, PwC, Bob Moritz.

According to him, “Despite a tumultuous 2016, CEO confidence is moving back up – albeit slowly and still a long way from the levels we saw back in 2007. But there are signs of optimism right across the globe, including in the UK and US, where despite predictions of a Trump slump and a Brexit exit, CEOs confidence in their company’s growth are up from 2016. And that mood is reflected elsewhere, with more CEOs across the world targeting the US and UK for investment than a year ago.”

“While CEOs are more confident in the opportunity for growth, this year they told us these three concerns that were top of mind: a people and technology strategy that creates a workforce fit for the digital age; preserving trust in their businesses in a world of increasingly virtual interactions; and making globalisation work for everyone by engaging ever more with society and collaborating to find solutions,” Moritz said.

In sharp contrast to 2016, CEO’s confidence in their own one year revenue growth is on the rise in nearly every major country across the world, with India (71%), Brazil, where confidence levels have more than doubled (57%), Australia (43%) and the UK (41%) topping the table. The survey findings also indicate that confidence also rose

by 11 points in China to 35%, 6 points in the US to 39% and 3 points in Germany to 31%. In Switzerland confidence levels have more than doubled to 34%
When asked what drives growth, organic expansion tops the agenda for over three quarters of CEOs (79%), while 41 per cent are planning new merger and acquisition activity in 2017 and nearly a quarter (23%) of all CEOs intend to strengthen their innovation capabilities to capitalise on new opportunities.

PwC’s first global CEO survey showed emerging markets including China and India as a sure bet for success. But the changeability of markets, exacerbated by currency volatility, has caused CEOs to turn to a greater mix of countries. This year’s survey shows the US, Germany and the UK have become bigger priorities, while enthusiasm for investing in Brazil, India, Russia and Argentina has lessened from three years ago.

The top five most important countries for growth identified by the survey are the US, China, Germany, the UK, and Japan, with the UK rising in popularity as a growth destination.
Over half of business leaders interviewed 52, per cent are already exploring the benefits of how humans and machines can work together, and two out five, which is about 39 per cent, are considering the impact of artificial intelligence on future skills needs.