What's on the minds of UK CEOs for the year ahead?

20th CEO Survey



UK findings

The 20th CEO Survey shows that UK CEOs are more upbeat about their own businesses’ growth prospects than 12 months ago, despite voicing declining optimism about the global economic outlook.

They’re also looking to grow their headcount faster than their counterparts elsewhere, and develop existing talent to seize new opportunities.

In terms of risks, they’re switching their focus towards tackling cyber threats, monitoring UK negotiations to leave the EU and addressing skills shortages.

Overall, our findings – based on a global research sample of over 1,300 global leaders that included 126 UK CEOs – suggest that UK CEOs are staying calm and determined as they continue to pursue growth in an uncertain world.

Kevin Ellis, our Chairman and Senior Partner, introduces the key UK findings from PwC's 20th CEO Survey

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UK findings

UK CEOs are looking to strengthen their digital and technology capabilities to drive growth, but are experiencing a skills gap

The findings from the 20th CEO Survey indicate that CEOs based in the UK are more comfortable than most business leaders worldwide with the pace at which technology is advancing. But our study also confirms they are on high alert over the risks of cyber attacks – and are finding digital skills harder to get hold of than their peers in other countries. Asked how concerned they are about a range of business threats, responses show that the speed of technological change – ranked last year as their third biggest business threat – is highlighted as a concern by 59% of UK CEOs (against 70% of all CEOs globally). However, by way of comparison, CEOs in both China and the US are more worried than those in the UK, with 86% in China and 67% in the US saying it’s a concern.

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UK CEOs are looking to expand and develop their workforces – but they’re worried about getting the skills they’ll need to drive future growth

The availability of key skills has risen from second place last year to top position this year in UK CEOs’ ranking of the business threats facing their organisations. This points to a significant squeeze on the skills that they believe they’ll need in the future – and a rising level of concern over how they’ll succeed in accessing them. Our survey shows that 83% of UK CEOs are worried about how to get hold of key skills, a proportion that’s up sharply from 71% last year, and compares to 77% globally. The UK is by no means alone with CEOs in China even more worried about skills availability than in the UK, with 88% citing it as a concern. The level of concern in the US is similar to the UK at 82%.

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UK CEOs are becoming less confident about the global economy, but more confident about their own businesses’ growth – while also keeping an eye out for Brexit-related risks

UK CEOs taking part in our 20th CEO Survey are more confident about the growth prospects for their own organisations than a year ago but voice a lower level of confidence about the global economic outlook. And while the UK referendum vote to leave the EU has clearly influenced UK CEOs’ views of the immediate risks to their companies’ growth, they’re more optimistic about growth over a longer timeframe – with their expectations over three years being more positive than for the coming twelve months.

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