CEO confidence is down worldwide

  • CEO confidence has dropped low (Image supplied)

    CEO confidence has dropped low (Image supplied)

  • CEOs survey: Arthur Wightman, PwC Bermuda leader (Photograph supplied)

    CEOs survey: Arthur Wightman, PwC Bermuda leader (Photograph supplied)

The world’s bosses are feeling gloomy about the global economy this year, and that’s not a good sign.

Fifty-three per cent of chief executive officers are predicting a decline in the rate of global economic growth in 2020, up from 29 per cent last year, according to PwC’s 23rd annual survey of almost 1,600 global CEOs. The survey launched this morning at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

This is the highest level of pessimism since the survey started in 2012.

And CEOs aren’t feeling too good about their own businesses either, with only 27 per cent saying they were “very confident” in their own organisation’s growth over the next 12 months — the lowest level the survey has seen since 2009.

CEO positivity matters, because the change in their sentiment has proven to be an excellent predictor of global economic growth.

A survey spokesman said analysing CEO forecasts since 2008, the correlation between CEO confidence in their 12-month revenue growth and the actual growth achieved by the global economy has been very close. If the analysis continues to hold, global growth could slow to 2.4 per cent in 2020, which is below many estimates including the 3.4 per cent October growth prediction from the International Monetary Fund.

CEO pessimism over global economic growth was particularly significant in North America, Western Europe and the Middle East.

“Given the lingering uncertainty over trade tensions, geopolitical issues and the lack of agreement on how to deal with climate change, the drop in confidence in economic growth is not surprising — even if the scale of the change in mood is,” said Bob Moritz, chairman, of the PwC Network. “These challenges facing the global economy are not new — however the scale of them and the speed at which some of them are escalating is new. The key issue for leaders gathering in Davos is: how are we going to come together to tackle them.”

Arthur Wightman, PwC Bermuda leader, said: “The decline in optimism represents a starker realisation of the relationship between doing business and the state of our planet.”

Mr Wightman called for radical changes in the way the global economy functions and a far greater emphasis by businesses on the role they play in sustainability.

“Not just for their business but for society at large,” he said. “It is now imperative for CEOs to develop and integrate a detailed sustainability vision into their long-term strategic plan and articulate how this is contributing to specific UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Mr Wightman said for Bermuda insurers, who have such a significant role in helping to manage the downside risks of increasingly frequent and severe weather events, there is further to go to increase resilience, reduce harm and transition to a low carbon society.

“Widely viewed as a catalyst for this change is technology and the movement to a digital environment,” he said. “For example, the insurance industry is beginning to use mobile and digital technology to increase insurance penetration by reaching new customers in remote areas with their insurance solutions. These digital-led strategies are percolating into other layers of their businesses and help to vary premiums according to the behaviour of their customers. In turn, this can influence wider decisions made by governments and businesses, for example, in how they approach building in flood-prone areas.”

While confidence levels are generally down across the world, there is a wide variation from country to country, with China and India showing the highest levels of confidence among major economies at 45 per cent and 40 per cent respectively, the US at 36 per cent, Canada at 27 per cent, the United Kingdom at 26 per cent and Japan having the least optimistic CEOs with only 11 per cent very confident of growing revenues in 2020.

The survey spokesman said while CEOs around the world express clear concerns about the threat of overregulation, they are also predicting significant regulatory changes in the technology sector.

Globally over two thirds of CEOs believe that governments will introduce new legislation to regulate the content on both the internet and social media and to break up dominant tech companies. A majority of CEOs (51 per cent) also predict that governments will increasingly compel the private sector to financially compensate individuals for the personal data that they collect.

But the survey found that CEOs are in two minds as to whether governments are striking the right balance in designing privacy regulation between increasing consumer trust and maintaining business competitiveness, with 41 per cent saying it strikes the right balance and 43 per cent saying it doesn’t.

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Published Jan 20, 2020 at 4:09 pm (Updated Jan 21, 2020 at 12:06 am)

CEO confidence is down worldwide

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