Survey Shows CEOs Optimistic about Growth amid Headwinds

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By Obinna Chima

Despite being relatively bullish on the economy as well as the overall outlook for their respective countries, optimism from global chief executive officers (CEOs) was tempered by a healthy dose of realism, as a survey showed 55 per cent of them predicted cautious topline revenue growth for their businesses.

On the other hand, half of the CEOs (52 percent) said they would need to hit growth targets before hiring new skills.
According to the latest KPMG Global CEO Outlook, the chief executives were driving growth against a backdrop of significant demographic shifts, geopolitical volatility and the seemingly inevitable future cyber-attack.
The report stated that the CEOs were stepping up to the cyber challenge, in particular, with 59 per cent saying they feel a personal responsibility for protecting customer data.

“CEOs are harnessing the headwinds of change to steer their organisations to growth,” the Chairman, KPMG International, Bill Thomas said.

“The CEOs I’m talking with recognise that geopolitical uncertainty, disruption and cyber threats are their new normal. The best are looking for the opportunities this creates, changing their systems, and in some cases their entire business. “It’s clear that driving growth in 2018 and beyond will require CEOs to combine resourcefulness and realism in equal measure,” the report added.
Furthermore, the survey showed that CEOs play an essential role in pivoting their organisations to the consumers of tomorrow in order to seize every opportunity to grow, with four in 10 (38 per cent) responding that their business requires repositioning to meet the needs of Millennials. There’s also a growing sense of inevitability of a cyber breach with nearly half (49 per cent) of CEOs saying that becoming the victim of an attack is a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.
Given the current geopolitical environment, it’s perhaps not surprising that a ‘return to territorialism’ was named the number one threat to growth this year, in the survey.

It also revealed that CEOs were optimistic about the macroeconomic environment as they were confident about global and industry growth prospects (67 and 78 percent, respectively). They were also confident in their individual country growth (74 per cent are confident, although this is down 3 percentage points from 2017).
However, only 37 per cent plan to increase headcount by more than six percent over the next years and 55 per cent predicted cautious revenue growth of less than two per cent over the next threeyears.
CEOs are embracing the digital agenda like never before and taking personal ownership of data and trust as the survey showed that 71 per cent of them were personally ready to lead a radical organisation transformation. Also, 59 per cent saw protecting customer data as a critical personal responsibility, while contrary to popular opinion, 62 percent expect Artificial Intelligence to create more jobs than it destroys.

With customer demands changing continually, and the technology landscape in a constant state of flux, agility and intuition are critical as 59 percent believed agility was the new currency of business; indicating if they’re too slow they will be bankrupt. In addition, more than half (51 percent) were less confident in the accuracy of predictive analytics compared to historic data, and have the highest trust for social media sources over all others.
“Data is hugely important, but ultimately CEOs have to make big calls and it’s clear that experience and intuition still have a role to play,” Thomas added.