I've spent a good amount of time in recent days reviewing the findings of KPMG's 2018 Global CEO Outlook, our annual study based on interviews with 1,300 CEOs from large companies in 11 of the world's largest economies. What we heard is eye-opening, and it's provided me with invaluable layer of insight to inform the discussions I'm having with clients.
For me, the most impactful section of the report is called, “Digital gets personal.” Why does this phrase resonate so strongly? It's because this part of the study really reflects the conversations I'm having with business leaders across every continent. It speaks to the intense digital world in which CEOs are operating and their focus in managing in an increasingly technology-dominated operating environment. So many of the CEOs I speak with me tell me the same story: “I didn't get to this position because of my digital skills, but the most critical decisions I'm now making have digital technology at their core.” The sense of personal responsibility I hear in those conversations is echoed in our research.
It is invigorating to hear CEOs tell us about their ambition to embrace technology and use it to convert potential hurdles into springboards for success. Virtually all - 95% - of the CEOs we interviewed for our Global CEO Outlook see technology disruption as more of an opportunity than a threat. I do as well.
CEOs are taking on digital transformation, proactively and personally. Almost three-quarters told us they are personally prepared to lead their organization through a radical transformation of their current business model. And more than half say they are actively disrupting their own business sector, rather than waiting to be disrupted.
CEOs now also feel more responsibility for their customers' data. It is telling that almost 60 percent of CEOs say that protecting their customers' data is one of their most important responsibilities as CEO. I think that signifies a recognition that CEOs are now held accountable for data breaches and signals a very significant shift to meet increased demands for greater data privacy head-on.
Technology and data may be at the top of the agenda, but they are far from the only issues that CEOs are tackling. Changing customer demographics, and volatile geopolitical conditions that impact everything from domestic regulation and taxation to cross-border trade are also very top of mind. They also find themselves immersed in business transformation and have told us that their boards are demanding more detail on the timetable for, and scale of, returns on technology investments.
But that's what is inspiring about the executives I've met recently, and the leaders who shared their opinions in our 2018 report. They're saying, “I've never been through these challenges before, but I'm determined to master them, I want to learn the new rules of the game, and I want to equip myself and my business to face them.”
So if “Digital gets personal” sounds more like the title of a new action movie than a piece of CEO research, let me assure you that it's very much real life to the CEOs we interviewed and speak with every day.