CEOs say cyber-attacks are biggest threat to company growth prospects

Sep 09, 2021
PwC survey reveals CEO concerns on cyber-security and digital transformation

Cyber-threats have fast become a major source of anxiety for nearly half (47 percent) of global CEOs, according to a new survey from PwC. This figure is a jump from last year’s survey where one third (33 percent) of global CEOs cited cyber-threats as a concern.

The fear is greatest among CEOs of companies in North America, where more than two thirds (69 percent) cite cyber as the largest threat to their organization’s growth – a 19 percentage-point increase on last year.

Cyber-threats are also of concern for 54 percent of African company CEOs, a jump from 38 percent in 2020. At Asia-Pacific companies, too, the number of CEOs concerned about cyber issues has increased, from 27 percent last year to 40 percent this year.

‘During Covid-19, we have witnessed increased fraud in the banking system. The thought of losing my customers’ money to theft is what keeps me up at night,’ Uday Kotak, founder and CEO of Kotak Mahindra Bank, says in the report. ‘While Covid-19 has brought about a significant increase in digital adoption and transactions, it has also increased the risks associated with digital.’

Globally, 52 percent of company leaders say they are extremely concerned about pandemics and other health crises as a threat to an organization’s growth prospects.

As a result of the pandemic, nearly half of CEOs (49 percent) plan to increase their investment in digital transformation by 10 percent or more. Another third (34 percent) will invest between 3 percent and 9 percent in digital transformation.

‘Companies on the leading edge are more deeply embedding AI in customer-focused applications, back-office applications and risk management, while addressing algorithmic bias so that stakeholders trust the outputs,’ the PwC research notes.

Concerns about the spread of misinformation have also risen among global company leaders over the last year, from 16 percent to 28 percent. Again, it’s CEOs in North America who are most concerned about this threat.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. More than three quarters (76 percent) of global company leaders believe global economic growth will improve over the next 12 months – a 54 percentage-point increase on last year. This is the highest figure recorded since PwC started asking CEOs this question in 2012. The next highest was in 2018 with 54 percent.

The confidence of company leaders across the world has also jumped this year. One third (36 percent) of CEOs say they are very confident about their revenue growth prospects for the next year and 47 percent are very confident looking ahead three years.

This is a significant jump in company leaders’ feelings compared with 2020 when only 27 percent of CEOs were confident about their revenue growth prospects for the next year and 34 percent were confident about the next three years.

‘Based on this year’s responses, we estimate that global growth could rise as much as 5 percent, just slightly lower than recent International Monetary Fund projections that the global economy will grow 5.5 percent in 2021,’ PwC says.

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