CEO Survey Caribbean Report

Conducted in October and November 2022, the 26th Annual Global CEO Survey explores the views of 4,410 chief executives around the world on how they are navigating the accelerated pace of change and the work that must be done to solve society's biggest challenges.

This Survey explores the views of CEOs in the Caribbean compared with CEOs globally.

One third of Caribbean CEOs don’t think their organisations will be economically viable in 10 years’ time, if they continue on their current course. That stark data point underscores a dual imperative facing all CEOs who responded to PwC’s 26th Annual CEO Survey. Most of those CEOs feel it’s critically important for them to reinvent their businesses for the future. They also face daunting near-term challenges, starting with the global economy, which over 60% (75% globally) believe will see declining growth during the year ahead. We’ve organised this year’s survey summary into nine tough questions, which naturally fall into three groups, about what it takes to operate in our dual imperative world:

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The race for the future

The first three questions–on the potential for widespread business disruption, on corporate climate change strategies, and on the time horizons of critical risks–reflect the race that CEOs must run to stay ahead of longer term threats to their companies, to society, and to the planet itself.

Our take

A focus on today’s most immediate risks is natural, but creates vulnerabilities; delaying action until you are directly exposed to climate or cyber shocks is risky. 

Moving with the right pace and priority to mitigate climate risks, generate opportunities, and decarbonise is a strategic challenge of the first order. Many companies appear to be strategising today without the information provided by an internal pricing mechanism for carbon, even though this could help them account for considerations like taxes and incentives, and clarify strategic tradeoffs. 

Many CEOs today recognise the potential for a set of long-term megatrends (climate change, tech disruption, demographic shifts, fracturing world and social instability) to dramatically reshape the business environment.

CEOs recognise the potential for disruption ahead. Almost one third of Caribbean CEOs don’t think their companies will be economically viable a decade from now, if they continue on their current path. This is consistent with global (39%) and Latin America (29%) though slightly higher than the US (20%), UK (22%) and Canada (24%).

CEOs’ race against time is especially urgent when it comes to climate change. Over the next 12 months, Caribbean CEOs see climate risk primarily impacting their cost profiles (68%) and supply chains (58%). Fewer are worried about climate-related damage to their physical assets (38%) which is interesting given the Caribbean’s geographical location. Given the growing vulnerability of risks such as a rise in sea levels, changes in rain patterns and temperatures, and increasing intensity of natural disasters to Caribbean small island developing states, it’s important Caribbean CEOs don’t run the risk of being blind-sided.

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Today’s tensions

The next three questions—on the relationship between today’s conditions and tomorrow’s outlook, between strategies for business resilience and workforce retention, and between geopolitics and contingency planning—speak to day-to-day tensions that leaders are facing as macroeconomic conditions deteriorate, uncertainty rises and inflation hits levels not seen in decades.

Our take

Last year’s over-optimism may have been replaced by excessive pessimism. After all, CEOs are people, too, and likely to be as susceptible as the rest of us to recency effects and other cognitive biases.

CEOs are seeking balance between a need to batten down the hatches and an ongoing need for business reinvention, which they can’t deliver if they lose the war for talent. A land-war in Europe and growing concern about flashpoints in other parts of the world are underscoring the importance of integrating a wider range of disruptions into scenario planning and corporate operating models–including their cascading ramifications across the entire supply chain.

The biggest near-term challenge facing CEOs, of course, is the state of the global economy. Not surprisingly, over 60% of Caribbean CEOs project that global economic growth will decline over the next 12 months in-line with 73% of global CEOs. Those expectations represented a stark reversal from the last Caribbean participation in the survey (conducted in 2020, released in January 2021), when a similar proportion (69%) anticipated improvement in global growth. That optimism - reflecting hope that economic conditions would continue improving as momentum around vaccine development and rollout in the Caribbean and the rest of the world picked up pace - was dashed in 2022 by shocks such as Europe’s largest land war since World War II, knock-on effects like surging energy and commodity prices, and accelerating general wage and price inflation.

In response to the current environment, CEOs report cutting costs and spurring revenue growth. Interestingly, although 62% of Caribbean CEOs say they have already begun cutting costs, just 14% are implementing hiring freezes, and 8% are reducing the size of their workforce. This could be something to do with the recent employee attrition rates, which surged over the past year or so in many markets, referred to as the “Great Resignation.” The majority of CEOs in the Caribbean (44%) appear to believe that those elevated churn rates will continue.

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A balanced agenda

The final three questions—on the time and money CEOs are investing in the future, on their role as leaders to drive and empower change, and on the ecosystems they are building to create new sources of value—epitomise the balancing act that CEOs must perform to deliver on their dual imperative. 

Our take

The balancing act facing today’s CEO starts with his/her own calendar and extends to most corporate resource allocation decisions. In many organisations, the conditions aren’t in place for managers and employees to run on their own toward major new opportunities or to independently spot and respond to disruptive threats. CEOs need to double down on setting a shared vision, empowering people to make decisions, and being visible champions for change. The magnitude of today’s global challenges makes it critical for CEOs to extend their use of collaborative ecosystems from creating business value to generating societal value–accessing the capabilities of other participants, managing risks collectively, and making greater progress than any organisation can make on its own.

The CEO balancing act extends from the CEO’s calendar to the allocation of corporate resources. Technology investments are a top priority: more than three-quarters of companies are focused on automation, upskilling, and deploying advanced technologies such as AI. Drilling down into the underlying rationale for those investments, roughly 65% in each category is focused on reinventing the business for the future, and 35% focused on preserving the current business. A similar ratio (60/40) was remarkably consistent across the full spectrum of investments for CEOs globally, another reflection of the balancing act CEOs are striving to strike.

Caribbean CEOs are partnering with non-business entities to address societal issues. Most notably, education (57%) and sustainable development (50%). DE&I ranks third on the list (39%) compared with global CEOs (49%). Many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are still feeling the lasting impacts of COVID-19, and consistent with their top threats, are tackling inflation and macroeconomic volatility first, which is perhaps why economic recovery and public safety (both 36%) are higher up the list than climate change (34%).

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Arthur Wightman

Arthur Wightman

Territory Leader, PwC Bermuda

Prince Rahming

Prince Rahming

Territory Leader, PwC Bahamas

Tel: +1 (242) 302 5301

Ross Parker

Ross Parker

Territory Leader, PwC East Caribbean, PwC Barbados

Tel: +1 (246) 626 6841

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Bruce Scott

Territory Leader, PwC Jamaica

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