The shifting landscape for Canada's financial services industry

Key findings and takeaways from the 26ᵗʰ Annual CEO Survey

Our 26th global CEO Survey explores an urgent issue facing chief executive officers: how to manage immediate challenges and demands while accelerating progress on long-term, enterprise-wide transformation. Our survey examined this dual imperative in detail, offering insights into what it means in three key areas: winning the race for the future, navigating current tensions and ensuring a balanced agenda between short- and long-term considerations.

This year, our survey respondents included a large number of CEOs from Canada’s financial services sector, including executives in banking, insurance and asset and wealth management, and their responses reflect both similarities to and key differences from their global counterparts. So what are some of the top takeaways for Canadian financial services CEOs navigating the dual imperative in 2023?

1. The race for the future

What’s the future of banking, insurance and asset management, and how are financial services CEOs approaching long-term, disruptive forces like digital transformation, competition from new industry entrants and climate change?


18% of Canadian financial services CEOs (versus 38% globally) don’t think their organizations will be viable after 10 years if they continue on their current path.

When we asked about factors impacting profitability in the next 10 years, we saw clear differences between Canadian and global respondents. For example, 12% of Canadians (versus 34% globally) saw new industry entrants as impacting profitability to at least a large extent. We also saw differences in responses about technology disruptors like artificial intelligence and blockchain, with 48% of Canadian respondents (versus 59% globally) foreseeing a significant profit impact.

22% of Canadian financial services CEOs (versus 23% globally) say they’ve completed initiatives to innovate new climate-friendly products or processes.

2. Today’s tensions

How are financial services CEOs feeling about the economy in 2023, and what are they doing to navigate a challenging near-term environment?


88% of Canadian financial services CEOs (versus 78% globally) believe global economic growth will decline this year.

Canadian respondents are taking action to manage the uncertainty. 62% (versus 46% globally) are considering or have already taken action to slow investments. Canadian CEOs were also more likely (58% versus 32% globally) to have already delayed deals or be looking at doing so.

Most Canadian financial services CEOs aren’t looking to make workforce changes often seen in a downturn. 66% (versus 58% globally) aren’t planning on hiring freezes this year, while 88% (82% among global respondents) say they won’t be cutting compensation.

3. A balanced agenda

How much time do financial services CEOs devote to current operating performance versus reinventing the business? And to what extent are they collaborating with other organizations and harnessing the power of organizational culture to help balance the dual imperative?

Canadian respondents say they spend 23% of their time (the same percentage as global CEOs) on evolving the business for the future. Asked how they’d allocate their time if they had a blank calendar, Canadian respondents said they’d increase this to 28% (versus 26% globally).

While 55% of Canadian financial services CEOs (51% globally) say they collaborate with non-business entities on diversity, equity and inclusion, they were somewhat less likely to do so when it came to societal issues like climate change (50% compared to 52% among global respondents) and sustainable development (37% versus 43% globally).

When it comes to the role of organizational culture in supporting change and innovation, Canadian financial services CEOs see some advantages for their organizations: 92% (versus 87% globally) said their employees’ behaviours are usually or often aligned with the company’s values and direction. 30% (versus 20% globally) said their leaders make strategic decisions for their functions or divisions without consulting the CEO.

A rising imperative to evolve for the future

Our survey reflects the complexities of the dual-imperative world facing financial services CEOs. While it in some ways shows Canadian respondents’ confidence about the future of their own organizations despite significant pessimism about today’s economic environment, it also highlights key opportunities for CEOs to position their companies to thrive now and in the future.

Take, for example, Canadian respondents’ signals about slowing down investments. The impetus to pull back at a time of uncertainty is understandable and can be the right approach if managed carefully. But the scale of change and disruption affecting the industry also means it’s important to keep evolving the business for the future, especially given the key trends affecting sectors like banking and insurance.

For Canadian banks, these include major changes like open banking, payments modernization, decentralized finance, digital assets and rising competition from non-traditional players. For Canadian insurance companies, CEOs are facing similar issues as well as other key trends like the rise of ecosystems and the transformation opportunities emerging from the impacts of International Financial Reporting Standard 17.

How can you balance competing pressures in 2023?

Run the organization while simultaneously transforming it for the future. This is the heart of the challenge facing Canadian financial services CEOs as they grapple with these forces of change. While our survey shows industry leaders would like to spend more time on reinventing the business than they currently do, carving out capacity to focus on issues with a longer time horizon is especially hard when the business environment is so complex and uncertain.

Even so, we believe there are ways for Canadian financial services CEOs to ensure more time and capacity for reinvention, including:

Reassess and reallocate: With costs rising and budgets under pressure, this is the time to take a look at your portfolio to assess which investments offer the biggest opportunities to develop the capabilities you need to drive growth and value. You may not be able to pursue every project you’ve been planning, and reassessing your priorities can both help manage costs and efficiencies while freeing up capacity for long-term investments.

Embrace ecosystems: As new, digitally enabled organizations continue to emerge in financial services sectors like banking, insurance and asset management, ecosystems will be increasingly important to managing the pressures CEOs are facing. These partnerships can help CEOs assess which capabilities the organization will develop itself versus those it will look to its partners to provide. The complexity of key societal issues facing CEOs, such as sustainability and climate change, also requires greater collaboration with a range of other organizations, including both industry players and non-business entities.

Empower your people: An important aspect of navigating the competing pressures of the dual imperative is developing a more dynamic, agile and aligned organization in which everyone is empowered to contribute to common goals. Canadian financial services CEOs should build on the cultural strengths our survey highlighted, in addition to increasing dynamism by giving their leaders more leeway to make decisions and pursue innovations that support key capabilities and priorities.

Opportunities to shape the future of banking, insurance and asset management

The instinct to rein in investments during periods of uncertainty is natural, but through our work with the financial services industry, we’ve seen that companies that find ways to continue investing in high-priority growth areas are the ones that emerge strongest from challenging times. For Canadian banking, insurance and asset and wealth management CEOs, this is the time to harness opportunities to position the organization for resilience and growth now and for the future.

Contact us

Nicolas Marcoux

Nicolas Marcoux

Chief Executive Officer, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 205 5302

Matthew Wetmore

Matthew Wetmore

Global Industries & Sectors Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 403 561 6376

Jason Boggs

Jason Boggs

National Banking and Capital Markets Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 941 8311

Keegan Iles

Keegan Iles

Partner, Strategy& and National Insurance Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 815 5052

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