Inside the minds of consumers and CEOs

20th CEO Survey

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Consumers have a rosier view of the economy

As part of this year’s anniversary special, we spoke to 5,351 members of the public from across the world to compare and contrast their views against that of CEOs.

While business leaders are wary of economic conditions across the globe, consumers are more optimistic. Compared to 29% of CEOs, 34% of people believe that the global economy will improve over the next year.

However, more than half (54%) of the public are not convinced that economic growth matters much, if at all, for their well-being.

Consumers and CEOs don’t always see eye to eye

As we transition to a digital economy, both CEOs and consumer share many similar sentiments. Job losses due to advances in technology emerged as the top concern for CEOs and consumers. Over 61% of both parties also agree that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation will affect trust to some or a large extent. Likewise, consumers agree with CEOs on breaches in data privacy and ethics as the biggest threat to stakeholder trust.

But business leaders and consumers don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to implementation. While 35% of the public agree that businesses have increased their focus on operating in a way that takes them and their community into account, only 9% of consumers strongly agree with the notion.

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Globalisation works for some but not for others

Businesses have taken advantage of globalisation to grow beyond domestic borders. In many aspects, CEOs are more optimistic about the benefits of globalisation compared to consumers. Compared to consumers, more CEOs believe that it has enabled the movement of capital, people, goods and information; improved universal connectivity; provided universal access to infrastructure and basic services; and created a skilled and educated labour force.

Unsurprisingly, CEOs are slightly more sceptical about the global tax system than the public – 14% believe it has been not effective at all versus a quarter of consumers.

Only a quarter of CEOs and consumers believe that globalisation has been effective in closing the gap between the rich and poor, creating full and meaningful employment, managing geopolitical risks, harmonising regulations and averting climate change.

Consumers, CEOs and computers

Are CEOs as digital-savvy as their consumers? That depends. Both rate themselves to have strong digital skills, and are equally more likely to consume digital media than print media. And when it comes to technology at home, CEOs and the public share similar traits. Half of CEOs and 44% of people disagree over the use of robotics, while 46% of CEOs and 36% of the public agree on home automation systems.

However, 28% of the public say they are more active on social media, compared to only 9% of CEOs. Interestingly, over a quarter of consumers also indicated that they use social media frequently to communicate negatively about businesses.  Consumers are also more likely to play games (37%) and shop online (54%) versus business leaders (10% and 40% respectively).

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Art Kleiner
Global Editor in Chief, PwC US

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