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Canada’s leading CEOs are optimistic about the future

05/05/21

Still, strategic action is vital to outlast the COVID-19- rebound.

Toronto, May 5, 2021 -- Canadian CEOs are expecting extensive growth in the coming year, an optimistic perspective to come out of recent turbulent times. According to the Canadian results of the Global CEO Survey, 72% expect global economic growth to improve over the next 12 months. CEOs are also bullish about their own organization’s growth, with most expecting their revenues and profitability to increase. 

The comprehensive data puts a glaring spotlight on elements CEOs must prioritize to reach future growth goals. It’s important for CEOs to use the energy of a rebounding economy to strengthen their strategies for transformation, cybersecurity and privacy, the well-being of their workforce and climate change.

Transformation: an opportunity for holistic growth
Data in this year’s survey shows that Canadian CEOs are planning to expand through organic growth opportunities (60%) and increasing operational efficiencies (68%). In conjunction with these plans, 71% aim to invest in digital transformation initiatives over the next three years. Given the economic and social realities as a result of the pandemic, organizations have had no choice but to accelerate their transformational goals. 

“In this past year, we have witnessed incredible ingenuity from Canada’s CEOs. Their confidence towards economic growth is an inspiring sentiment in a time when Canadians are still adjusting to changes in public health, safety restrictions and dealing with workplace challenges,” says Nicolas Marcoux, CEO and Senior Partner, PwC Canada. “The need for CEOs to transform their businesses has never been more significant. Setting the groundwork now is vital to drive sustainable growth, profitability and help organizations thrive long after the crisis.”

Cybersecurity: a top threat, not a top priority
This year, cybersecurity has in fact climbed to the top of the list of extreme threats, followed by the pandemic and other health crises. With an accelerated focus on digitization, there’s a need to adopt and implement well-established cybersecurity systems and measures for robust privacy. Although 87% of CEOs identified this as a top threat to growth, only 61% are showing they're prioritizing it by including it in their risk management strategies.

“The pandemic has illuminated for many how Mother Nature can throw a disruptive curve ball at society and how important it is to deal with systemic risks,” says Simon Kennedy, Deputy Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development. “Part of building an innovative digital economy is making sure that you have modern legal frameworks and laws that are fit for purpose for a modern economy.”

The modern economy and businesses functioning within it are increasingly dependent on their own technology and the technology offered by their ecosystems. CEOs can benefit from working with their CIOs to shape and build the right technical controls.

People as drivers of growth
CEOs who plan for the workforce of tomorrow have a competitive edge that can influence productivity. Canadian CEOs expect their workforce to grow: 8 out of 10 anticipate headcount to increase over the next three years. They’ve also identified their top long-term investment as leadership and talent development at 75% (compared to 67% of global CEOs). 

The crisis has forced CEOs to think broadly about many elements that impact their business, but high on the list of priorities is the well-being of their people. 

When Canadian CEOs were asked to identify an aspect of their workforce strategy to improve competitiveness, they selected workplace culture (42% vs. 32%) and well-being (34% vs. 28%) more than CEOs globally. Improving competitiveness for growth requires harnessing the power of supportive workplace culture. 

A built-in ESG strategy
Determined leadership, agility and responding to data-based insights are fundamental to creating, and building a robust ESG strategy. This year’s data shows that Canadian CEOs aren’t taking the threat of climate change seriously enough. 

Although CEOs reported that climate change is a threat to their growth strategies, this sentiment has hardly increased over the years. In fact, climate change concerns are only up by three points from last year (from 20% to 23%). When we dive deeper, the data shows Canada is lagging, globally CEOs concerns with climate change reached 30%. 

In a time when action is critical, CEOs in Canada can do more, especially since 68% of CEOs haven’t factored climate change into their strategic risk-management activities. Organizations of all sizes must build ESG into their investment strategies to sustain long-term growth.

While optimism is encouraging for all Canadians in today’s new world of work and life, it doesn’t equal strategy. Canadian CEOs are anticipating immense growth in the coming year—but they’ll need to position themselves for long-term growth by focusing on and investing in key priorities.  Turning optimism into opportunity will be the driving factor of enduring success in a post pandemic world.

Click here to access the Canadian findings of the Global CEO Survey. The 24th annual survey explored the views of a record 337 chief executives across the nation in January and February of 2021.

About PwC Canada

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. More than 7,000 partners and staff in offices across the country are committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax, consulting and deals services. PwC Canada is a member of the PwC network of firms with more than 284,000 people in 155 countries. Find out more by visiting us at: www.pwc.com/ca.

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