PwC’s Annual CEO Survey: Canadian CEOs Optimistic Over the Long-Term Despite Short-Term Uncertainty, Increased Protectionism and Continued Aversion to Risk

More than a third (38%) of Canadian CEOs are confident of their company’s growth in the next 12 months while 59% agree it is tougher to compete amidst growing protectionism

TORONTO, Ontario – January 16, 2017 – CEOs around the world have many challenges to address in the year ahead and still feel confident in their company’s own growth prospects.

The findings, released today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, show that Canadian business leaders are positive in their outlook, with 79% of their growth expected to come from the U.S. This is despite concerns about what the new U.S. administration might mean for their business.

The majority of Canadian CEOs (59%), along with their global counterparts, also have growing concerns regarding the impact of protectionism across the globe.  Meanwhile the speed of technological change and its threat to growth seems to be less of a concern for Canadian leaders (54% versus 70% globally). When it comes to the drivers of growth and profitability, Canadian CEOs rank new strategic alliances and joint ventures (74% versus 48% globally), collaboration with entrepreneurs and start-ups (49% versus 28% globally) and outsourcing (28% versus 17% globally) as important enablers of growth.

“It is a fairly optimistic outlook held by Canadian CEOs, in spite of increased uncertainty," said Bill McFarland, CEO, PwC Canada. “One concern is that this uncertainty may reinforce our already conservative business culture. There may be a tendency to be more risk averse as Canadians, along with many of their global counterparts, wait to see what changes in the new U.S. government, China and the Eurozone will bring in an increasingly disrupted market. Canadian business leaders must continue to look beyond the U.S. for growth and create alliances and forge partnerships in order to tap into new talent, ideas and markets while allowing us to manage risk and drive accelerated innovation.”

“Canadian business leaders will be watching to see how the dust settles in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. At the same time, we should be actively pursuing plans to invest in the U.S. and beyond while also looking at opportunities right here at home,” continued Bill McFarland, CEO, PwC Canada.

Canadian CEOs tell us that the ability to adapt to changes in technology is closely linked to business reputation, new skills and recruitment efforts, competitive opportunities and challenges to future growth. The majority (89%) believe technology will completely reshape competition in their industry over the next five years. Yet, Canadian leaders are not prioritising innovation (10% vs 23% globally) and don't see the speed of technological change as a big threat to their growth prospects compared to their global counterparts (54% vs 70% globally).

In an increasingly digital-driven world, technology has also created a new dynamic between business and customers - bringing significant benefits and risks for both.  However, 69% of CEOs globally (46% in Canada) say it is harder to gain and keep people’s trust in this new environment.

Bob Moritz, Global Chairman, PwC comments:

“Public discontent has the potential to erode trust which is needed for long term sustainable performance. The real challenge here though, isn’t just one of how CEOs navigate, it’s about the need for CEOs to have a deeper, two-way relationship with stakeholders, customers, employees, and the public. Understanding the root cause of the potential discontent or perception is a critical first step towards communicating the benefits of business for society. There’s a lot at stake if we do not achieve inclusive global growth.”

With the speed of technological change a concern for 70% of CEOs, it’s no surprise that skills in creativity and innovation, leadership and emotional intelligence are identified as highly valued and the most difficult to recruit. Digital and STEM skills are a recruitment issue for over half of business leaders. While still a concern in Canada, the greater emphasis on outsourcing, partnering and collaboration here vs. other countries allows for greater skill sharing across organizations and becomes less cost prohibitive.

To view the full CEO Survey please visit

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