What concerns CEOs

The risk landscape is changing: explore what worries CEOs most on the economic, policy and commercial fronts – and across a range of major potential disruptions.

Video: CEO concerns

Infographic: Regional concerns

CEO concerns about threats to growth

Today’s CEOs are concerned about a wide range of potential and ongoing threats to their business growth prospects. These include catastrophic events, economic and policy threats, and commercial threats.

We asked CEOs about their organisation’s ability to cope with a range of disruptive scenarios. Most felt their organisation would be negatively impacted, with major social unrest being cause for the greatest concern.

Of course, major disruptions aren’t the only cause for worry. CEOs are nervous about a whole clutch of fiscal and political threats. Continuing economic volatility tops the list, as it has done for the past two years. But 71% of CEOs are also concerned with how debt-laden governments are addressing growing deficits. And, nearly as many are anxious about overregulation. On the commercial front, higher taxes, the shortage of key skills, and energy and raw material costs dominate CEO concerns.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Some CEOs are finding the upside in disruption. Nearly a fifth of CEOs in the Middle East believe the collapse of the Eurozone could bring new business opportunities. Similarly, 16% of CEOs in the Middle East and 13% of CEOs in Central and Eastern Europe think China’s slowing growth could open new doors. And 13% of CEOs in North America would welcome a squeeze on natural resources for the same reason.

One thing is clear: the risk landscape is changing radically. Threats are coming harder and faster, from all directions, and in more subtly varied forms. CEOs recognise that traditional risk management approaches aren’t enough. The only solution is to build organisations that are agile and adaptable: organisations that not only can survive, but thrive amid disorder and emerge stronger than before.

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CEO interview quotes

"Financing this business, even though it’s very low risk, is a threat in a world in which it’s unclear how much money is going to be available, the depth of the credit markets worldwide, and the impact of any potential shocks."

Steve Holliday
Chief Executive Officer of National Grid Group Plc.

"When we hear almost daily about catastrophic storms and hurricanes and melting icecaps, the risk scenario I see is that governments focus largely on economic challenges at the expense of the environment. ...It’s critical that sustainability doesn't fall off the agenda."

Pertti Korhonen
President and Chief Executive Officer of Outotec Oyj

"...in Western Europe, there is a more fundamental matter. People there have decided that they should work less and retire earlier. And that may not be affordable. So I think that Western Europe has a serious structural issue."

Seymur Tari
Chief Executive Officer of Turkven

"From the standpoint of external political threats, we are concerned, of course, about what’s happening in our country. Social protests and scandals in both the business and political realms do not contribute to investor confidence."

Valentina Stanovova
Senior Vice-President of Capital Group

"Some European countries have a high level of productivity while others have a lower level of productivity while they are all wrapped up in a ‘monetary corset’ subject to different tax regulations. If the Eurozone fails, an array of opportunities may arise, because some of the current rigidities will disappear."

Julio Patricio Supervielle
Grupo Supervielle's CEO and Banco Supervielle's Chairman

"The world is facing various challenges: a growing scarcity of resources in mature countries, a surge of new consumers in emerging countries, energy efficiency imperatives, the need for new energy sources and the quest for follow-on efficiency drivers in mature countries."

Jean- Pascal Tricoire
President and Chief Executive Officer of Schneider Electric SA

"Managing a spectrum of regulatory risk - at the municipal, regional, national, and sometimes super-national level - is intrinsic to how we operate. And in times of political upheaval, the risk matrix becomes even more difficult to manage."

Carl Sheldon
Chief Executive Officer of TAQA

"The recent environment has been extremely challenging – natural disasters, with the implications of credit disasters, the financial crisis of a couple of years ago – and those challenges have forced a lot of companies to be more nimble."

Doug Tough
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc.

"In an interconnected world you are exposed to a greater number of vulnerabilities and externalities. So, whether disruptions occur as a result of geopolitical, climate, or economic conditions, the consequences can ripple through the system and there’s no place to hide."

Peter Tortorici
Chief Executive Officer of GroupM Entertainment Global

"The three major threats that we face are regulation, regulation and regulation. ...It’s absolutely clear that government regulations are getting tighter across all the areas where we operate."

Andrew Brandler
Chief Executive Officer of CLP Holdings Ltd.
These interviews contain the opinions and views of the CEOs interviewed, and do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of PwC.


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