news | 02 February 2017 | PwC Cyprus

CEO confidence for 2017 rises despite new risks and uncertainty

PwC’s 20th Annual Global CEO Survey underlines important findings

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

In PwC’s 20th Annual Survey of CEOs worldwide, 38% (2016: 35%) are very confident about their company’s growth prospects in the next 12 months while 29% (2016:27%) believe global economic growth will pick up in 2017.

The findings released 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.

While positive on the benefits of globalisation in building the free movement of capital, goods, and people, CEOs question whether globalisation has 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

Bob Moritz, Global Chairman, PwC, comments:

“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 Brexit and Trump’s electoral win, 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. All topics thatwill be high up the Davos agenda.”

Confidence in revenue growth climbs

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.  When asked what drives growth, organic expansion tops the agenda forover three quarters of CEOs (79%) in the coming year, while 41% 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.

Where CEOs will look for growth

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.

Globalisation, technology and trust

58% of business leaders think it’s become harder to balance globalisation with rising trends in protectionism. The concerns contrast with their views in the first PwC CEO survey which reported ‘the typical global corporation has as much freedom of trade as it needs’.

Additionally, CEOs tell us that technology is now inseparable from business’ reputation, skills and recruitment, competition and growth. Almost a quarter (23%) believe technology will completely reshape competition in their industry over the next five years.

Lastly, twenty years ago, trust wasn’t high on the business radar for CEOs. 15 years ago only 12% of CEOs thought public trust in companies had greatly declined. This year, 58% worry that a lack of trust in business will harm their company’s growth, up from 37% in 2013.

Skills and jobs

Concern about skills has more than doubled in 20 years (from 31% concerned in 1998 to 77% in 2017) and human capital is a top three business priority.

It is also worth noting that over half of CEOs (52% vs 48% 2016) expect to increase headcount over next 12 months. While only 16% of business leaders surveyed expect to reduce their overall employee base, CEOs say that 80% of those affected jobs will be impacted in some way by the use of technology or automation.

Τhe views of CEOs in Cyprus

In the context of the global CEO survey, PwC Cyprus carried out for the 6th consecutive year, a local study which includes the views of 89 CEOs in Cyprus. The results of the local survey will be presented on Thursday, 9 March 2017.

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