A Spanish perspective on the key themes of the 2017 CEO Outlook Survey.
Commenting on Spain’s results from the KPMG International 2017 CEO Outlook Survey, Guillermo Padilla Fernandez, Director of Management Consulting, KPMG in Spain, explains how business leaders in the country are focusing on disrupting their sectors, harnessing technology to increase their companies’ market share, and focusing on developing previously marginal skills such as emotional intelligence.
Q: Most Spanish CEOs see disruption as an opportunity for their business, rather than a threat. How can they ensure their organizations are agile enough to respond to change and turn it to their advantage?
Guillermo Padilla Fernandez: I suspect many Spanish CEOs are seeing disruption as a threat because the Spanish economy remains very competitive in terms of price - there are many players in each industry, and certain sectors are still recovering from the crisis. So their priority is to reinvest and identify new opportunities. Many are focusing on disrupting their own sectors, and to do that they need to identify new strategies – particularly around technology. They also need to internationalize their businesses and identify which processes within their industry need to be updated. In addition, they should consider how to change their discussion with clients and how they manage talent.
Q: Compared to the global average, CEOs in Spain are less confident in the growth prospects for their company over the next few years. What are the key challenges that Spanish companies face at the moment, and how should they be trying to overcome them?
Guillermo Padilla Fernandez: It is true that Spanish CEOs are less confident in their company’s growth prospects than the global average. In the survey, 66% say they are confident, significantly lower than the 83% average globally. On top of that, 42% of Spanish respondents say the uncertainty of the current political landscape is having a bigger impact on their organization than it has done for many years. The reason may be that, with the exception of the biggest companies, most firms do not yet feel able to harness innovation and technology to gain market share from their competitors. So I see the key challenge for growth in the next few years in Spain is managing innovation and technology to grow market share.
In Spain, financial services is leading the way in this area. Five or six years ago a number of them started to invest in analytics and using technology to connect with their clients in a different way. Those companies are now increasing their profits year-on-year. To me, that shows that it is possible for big companies in a very competitive sector to differentiate themselves and increase their value.
Q: Where Spanish companies are making good use of analytics to understand their customers better, what are the main challenges they face?
Guillermo Padilla Fernandez: Hiring data scientists. Right now, data analytics is one of the main foci of investment so all companies are competing in the same pool for talent.
Q: The survey suggests that organizations increasingly see business transformation as an ongoing activity, as opposed to one off, which helps them remain flexible and agile. What do you see the best leaders doing to make sure that their businesses embrace transformation?
Guillermo Padilla Fernandez: It is important for leaders to not try and transform all areas of their company at the same time. In my opinion, best practice is to focus on a specific program to transform rather than trying to do a holistic transformation program. At the moment, the customer interaction and the logistics of the supply chain are the most popular areas of transformation for Spanish companies.
Q: The survey revealed that many CEOs believe that their own role needs to change in order to better lead their businesses. What do you think are the key personal and professional attributes that the CEO of tomorrow needs to have and what is necessary now?
Guillermo Padilla Fernandez: CEOs of tomorrow will face issues that were absent or marginal in the past, such as the continual threat of technological disruption, the need to attract new talent, and the need to adopt new technologies. Given all this, it will be increasingly important for today’s CEOs to take new courses. Emotional intelligence is also growing in importance, as is the need for soft skills. CEOs will need to understand their teams’ fears and limitations and work with them to try to help them change. In that respect, emotional intelligence is also likely to become a much more important part of the CEO’s skillset in future years.