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Global CEOs realistic about growth in the face of unprecedented headwinds

Global CEOs realistic about growth in the face of....

55 percent predict cautious revenue growth of less than 2 percent over next 3 years: 4th annual KPMG International survey

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  • Repositioning their business to meet the needs of Millennials is a priority for 38 percent.
  • Geopolitics hits the boardroom, with territorialism named as top threat to growth.
  • Half say becoming a victim of a cyber attack is inevitable.

22 May 2018 – Despite being relatively bullish on the economy at large as well as their overall outlook for their country, optimism from global CEOs is tempered by a healthy dose of realism, with half (55 percent) predicting cautious topline revenue growth for their own business. Half of CEOs (52 percent) say they will need to hit growth targets before hiring new skills. According to the KPMG Global CEO Outlook, they are driving growth against a backdrop of significant demographic shifts, geopolitical volatility and the seemingly inevitable future cyber attack. CEOs are stepping up to the cyber challenge, in particular, with 59 percent saying they feel a personal responsibility for protecting customer data.

“CEOs are harnessing the headwinds of change to steer their organizations to growth,” said Bill Thomas, Chairman, KPMG International. “CEOs I’m talking with recognize 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.”

Stepping up to the challenge of an uncertain world

CEOs play an essential role in pivoting their organizations to the consumers of tomorrow in order to seize every opportunity to grow, with four in ten (38 percent) 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 percent) 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.

Driving realistic growth

CEOs are optimistic about the macroeconomic environment; they are confident about global and industry growth prospects (67 and 78 percent, respectively). They’re also feeling confident in their individual country growth (74 percent are confident, although this is down 3 percentage points from 2017). But there’s a more complex story emerging regarding company growth prospects:

  • 90 percent are confident in their company’s growth prospects (up 7 percentage points from 2017).
  • However, only 37 percent plan to increase headcount by more than 6 percent over the next 3 years (down 10 percentage points).
  • And 55 percent predict cautious revenue growth of less than 2 percent over the next 3 years.

Making digital a personal crusade

CEOs are embracing the digital agenda like never before and taking personal ownership of data and trust. 

  • 71 percent are personally ready to lead a radical organization transformation.
  • 59 percent see protecting customer data as a critical personal responsibility. 
  • Counter to popular opinion, 62 percent expect AI to create more jobs than it destroys.

“Data accessibility is a double-edged sword. Earlier this year, dozens of data breaches occurred both locally and globally, with millions of people affected. This raises privacy concerns. The impact of privacy data breaches may have negative effects on the organizations’ profit and share price, cause litigation, ongoing compliance costs, and losing trust” said Winid Silamongkol, Chief Executive Officer, KPMG in Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. “Developing a comprehensive framework to prioritize privacy is, therefore, essential. Organizations should align privacy with their business strategies as well as have proper plans and protocols in light of a cyber-attack. Governments around the world are now taking this issue seriously. In Thailand, the government plans to have up to 5000 cyber warriors in place by 2023 to improve national cyber security standards against hackers; while Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the biggest shake-up of data protection and privacy, is soon to be enforced in May 2018.”

Putting instinct over facts

With customer demands changing continually, and the technology landscape in a constant state of flux, agility and intuition are critical. 

  • 59 percent believe agility is the new currency of business; indicating if they’re too slow they will be bankrupt.
  • More than half (51 percent) are less confident in the accuracy of predictive analytics compared to historic data, and have the highest trust for social media sources over all others.
  • 67 percent admitted they have relied on their own intuition over data-driven insights to make strategic decisions in the past 3 years.

“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,” said Thomas.

Rising cyber threats

The ever-present risk of a cyber security threat is rising on the radar, up from fifth to second place overall this year in terms of risks hampering future growth. Only half (51 percent) of respondents indicated they are well-prepared for a cyber attack, even though over half (55 percent) say that a strong cyber strategy is critical to engender trust with key stakeholders.

Developing markets a focus for growth

Seventy percent say their biggest priority for geographical expansion is emerging markets, with Central/South America noted as the most important region.

To view additional information about the study, please visit kpmg.com/CEOoutlook. You can also follow the conversation @KPMG or @KPMG_TH on Twitter using the hashtag: #CEOoutlook.

About KPMG’s 2018 Global CEO Outlook survey

The survey covers 1,300 CEOs in 11 key markets (Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, UK and US) and 11 key industry sectors (asset management, automotive, banking, consumer and retail, energy, infrastructure, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, technology and telecoms). A third of the companies surveyed have more than US$10B in annual revenue, with no responses from companies under US$500M. The survey was conducted between 22 January and 27 February 2018. NOTE: some figures may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.

About KPMG International

KPMG is a global network of professional services firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. We operate in 154 countries and territories and have 200,000 people working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

About KPMG in Thailand

KPMG in Thailand, with more than 1,700 professionals offering audit, tax, and advisory services, is a member firm of the KPMG network of independent firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity.

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