Setting the course for growth: CEO Perspectives

Setting the course for growth: CEO Perspectives

Long term perspectives from the top of the corporate world

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After years of navigating through the most significant financial, political and technological disruptions in more than half a century, today's CEOs continue to confront business challenges of unprecedented complexity.


In an economic environment where change moves faster than ever, while growth takes time and focus, business leaders must look beyond the immediate horizon.


KPMG's CEO Study "Setting the Course for Growth: CEO Perspectives" gathers viewpoints from 400 U.S. CEOs, for an in-depth look at the most critical business issues of the next three years, and powerful insights on where U.S. leaders are taking their companies over the long-term. 


A message from John Veihmeyer






A message from John Veihmeyer
A message from John Veihmeyer
A message from John Veihmeyer 


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More than half of the CEOs surveyed (55%) feel more confident about the economy over the next three years than they did a year ago. Slightly more, 59 percent and 62 percent respectively, feel more confident about their industry and their company. 

"We assume that the economy is going to stay at status quo. We’re not expecting anything to get worse, we’re not expecting things to get a lot better, which means it’s a fight for market share."


- Michael R. Odell, President and CEO of Pep Boys


Half of the respondents characterize their overall growth strategy as aggressive, and half as conservative. A vast majority (84%) are either moderately aggressive or moderately conservative, again split roughly in half. Seventy-two percent say that the focus on growth is more important for their companies’ well-being than a focus on operational efficiencies. The top growth strategies are geographic expansion and organic growth. 

“Ideally, this three-year time horizon for increased M&A activity would align to a period in which there is greater certainty around business tax reform—an item that survey respondents identified as having relatively high possible impact on their companies. We’re seeing that the current uncertain outlook for reform is particularly challenging for companies undertaking M&A transactions today. It casts a shadow over the tax outlook for the target company’s operations as well as the opportunities for tax-efficient integration of the combining businesses, both of which make pricing deals today more difficult.” 

- Lisa Madden, National Practice Leader, KPMG Mergers & Acquisitions Tax


A vast majority of CEOs surveyed (90%) are concerned about competitors taking business away. Seventy-two percent are concerned about the relevance of products/ services three years from now and 59 percent about new entrants disrupting their business model. In an attempt to stay relevant, the top organizational priorities are promoting and advancing the brand, and more interaction with customers. 

“One of a company’s greatest defenses against competitors, and how they’ll stay in a position of competitive advantage, is being an information-driven organization. Information will drive a level of potential innovation, speed to market and customer interaction in a way that we haven’t had the ability to do in the past. The key is to create information that allows you to not only see historically but to provide predictive information. When you utilize predictive information, you enable future competitive positioning.”


– Linda Imonti, National Business Intelligence Leaders/West Advisory Leader in Advisory Services at KPMG


"I see more competitive disruptors on the landscape than I’ve ever seen." Companies are attempting to use some new technologies to bypass what has been the traditional payment system.


- Beth Mooney, KeyBank's CEO


Seventy-six percent of CEOs said that their companies are at some stage of transforming or having just transformed their operating models. However, just 16 percent evaluate their operating models quarterly, and the majority (54%) do it yearly. While spurring innovation is among the top challenges for CEOs, just 17 percent of companies have developed and implemented a formal, company-wide process for innovation across all units. 

“The key to a successful transformation is not going about it in an ad hoc and hurried manner but to be instead focused on prioritization and then rigorous and thoughtful implementation. It is about limiting the number of wrong moves and correcting mistakes fast.”


- Steven Hill, Vice Chairman, Strategic Investments, KPMG

"The companies with the most successful innovation will be those that can overcome innovation uncertainty, whether sparked by shifting customer dynamics, limited budgets, conflicting visions or a lack of confidence in their ability to pick winning technologies.”


- Gary Matuszak, global chairman, technology, media and telecommunications at KPMG


Regulatory environment is the top issue that can have the most impact on a company. It is also the second most critical challenge that CEOs expect to face over the next three years (after geographical expansion), according to the survey. 

"Anyone in healthcare who feels totally satisfied or relaxed is not paying attention. Between the regulatory and legislative changes and the simple realities of our national health, both economic and physical, it is clear that healthcare will change."


- George S. Barrett, chairman and CEO of healthcare services company Cardinal Health, Inc.


Risk management is the second-highest concern about the company for the CEOs surveyed (following financial performance). The majority of CEOs either lead the discussions on risk planning or have a strong voice in them (89%). However, risk planning is proactively discussed on a regular basis at just 27 percent of organizations. 

“The basis of a productive risk management strategy is harnessing it for growth, looking at the organization through a risk lens equivalent to a growth lens when charting a growth strategy.”


- Michael Nolan, U.S. and global partner in charge for KPMG’s Risk Consulting Services


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