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Global CEO Outook

Global CEOs realistic about growth in headwinds

Exploring a broad range of business drivers, risks and pain points, this year’s report offers insights into how new and evolving forces are continuing to raise the bar for CEOs in all countries and all sectors.

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Warrick Cleine

Global CEOs realistic about growth in the face of unprecedented headwinds

Global CEOs realistic about growth in the face of unprecedented headwinds

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

  • 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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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. 

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