When it comes to expectations of global growth, New Zealand CEOs are among the most pessimistic in the world, PwC New Zealand’s 21st CEO Survey has revealed. Only 32 per cent of local CEOs expect the global economy to improve this year, compared to 59 per cent of CEOs globally and 70 per cent in China.
The findings come at a time when businesses are coming to grips with a change in government, a heightened focus on regulation and the broader social and environmental challenges that could affect their growth.
While local CEOs are worried about global economic movements, they’re more confident in their own growth (89 per cent are planning to grow this year). They’re also looking at what they can control, through cost-cutting and by building resilience into their supply chain.
Mark Averill, CEO and Senior Partner at PwC New Zealand says:
“We’ve seen CEOs face an uncertain start to 2018. After a general election late last year, which coincided with our surveying, along with volatility in the equity markets this year, it’s no surprise that CEOs here are feeling more cautious.
“While it might seem like CEOs are pessimistic, our local respondents are bullish about their own growth prospects. They’re looking at what they can control; their supply chains and expenses, in order to get fit for the future.”
The big risks keeping CEOs up at night
When PwC asked CEOs what the biggest risks were to their growth, both social and business risks were among the most pressing. Terrorism has entered the top 10 risks for the first time, while cyber attacks are now the top risk to growth.
“CEOs are clearly getting up to speed on digital and technology, but the fact cyber attacks are the top risk to growth shows how vulnerable New Zealand organisations are,” says Mark.
“All businesses are now looking at the people and capabilities they’ll need to transform their business models. Digital and cyber security skills are just the beginning – we also have to be building diverse teams that can cut across traditional business silos.”
Threats to growth are coming from beyond business as well. There’s growing awareness that social and political concerns like over-regulation, climate change and populism, could put a hand-brake on local growth plans.
“Dealing with uncertainty has to be part of business planning for 2018,” says Mark. “We have to be partnering across industries and between government and business to address social issues like cyber security and climate change.
“This means becoming more nimble and developing a 2018 agenda that is agile enough to handle anything that is thrown their way.”