The pandemic’s dual role as accelerator of transformation and amplifier of disruptive forces is the thread that runs through our 24th Global CEO Survey. Most CEOs in Singapore and beyond are bullish about a global economic comeback. Business leaders believe the growth will be powered by this pandemic-induced digital acceleration, which promises productivity and other business benefits, while also increasing the threat of cyberattack and the spread of misinformation. The survey also reveals a rebound in CEOs’ confidence in their own company’s revenue prospects, but are anxious too - about the trajectory of the pandemic, over-regulation, trade conflicts, supply chain disruptions, and to a slightly lesser extent, climate change.
Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, three quarters of the Singapore CEOs surveyed are optimistic about global GDP growth in 2021, echoing the record optimism among CEOs across every region around the globe.
Q. Do you believe global economic growth will improve, stay the same or decline over the next 12 months?
Local business leaders’ positive outlook extends to their own company’s performance, as 34% of Singapore CEOs emerged “very confident” about their organisation’s prospects for revenue growth over the next year. Looking ahead three years, more business leaders (50%) are “very confident” about their company’s revenue growth. Most of them (64%) also expect profitability to increase in the next 12 months while 25% expect it to stay the same.
Q. How confident are you about your organisation's prospects for profitability and revenue growth over the next 12 months and the next 3 years?
Singapore businesses see China (43%), Indonesia (27%), the US (23%) and Vietnam (18%) as the top destinations for growth over the next 12 months.
Q. Which three countries / territories, excluding the country / territory in which you are based, do you consider most important for your organisation's overall growth prospects over the next 12 months? (Showing the top 5 countries)
Cyber leapt up the list of threats CEOs are most worried about this year, just as much as they are concerned about the pandemic, which is today the most obvious worry for everyone alike. This coincides with the acute surge in the adoption of digital transformation amid COVID-19, and also a response to a rise in cyberattacks over the past year.
Supply chain disruptions and misinformation also rose up the list of Singapore CEOs’ concerns.
Q. How concerned are you, if at all, about the list of potential business, economic, policy, social & environment threats below?
Majority of Singapore CEOs explicitly factor in pandemics (61%) and cybersecurity (52%) in their risk management strategies.
Other top three risks under the radar for mitigation include exchange rate volatility (48%), technology change (45%) and geopolitical uncertainty (45%).
Q. Which of the following threats, if any, are explicitly factored into your strategic risk management activities?
Overwhelming majority of Singapore CEOs (91%) prioritising long term investments in digital transformations over the next 3 years. 91% are also charting out longer term investment plans to set guard rails in cyberspace.
84% are seen investing in increasing cost efficiencies, while 69% of them planning to allocate funds for ESG initiatives.
A less visible surge in the adoption of advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to inform decision-making is observed. Companies on the leading edge are more deeply embedding AI in customer-focused applications, back-office applications, and risk management.
Q. How do you plan to change your long-term investments in the following areas over the next three years, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis?
When asked to prioritise societal outcomes that businesses should help deliver, the majority of Singapore CEOs (64%) put the creation of a skilled, educated and adaptable workforce on top of the list, followed by good health and well being of the workforce (57%).
CEOs are also seeking to boost their organisation’s competitiveness through digital investments in the workforce, while 55% aim to focus on productivity through technology and automation.
Over three out of five local CEOs are prioritising long term investments for leadership and talent development.
Nearly a third of Singapore CEOs (30%) expressed concerns over availability of key skills.
Q. Which three of these outcomes do you think should be priorities for business to help deliver in the country / territory in which you are based?
52% of Singapore CEOs put environmental impact right on top of their list when thinking of areas they should do more to report in - way more than ASEAN (36%) and global (43%) business leaders.
However, only one in four Singapore CEOs selected climate change as extremely concerning, with 50% somewhat concerned. Another 25% of Singapore CEOs are not concerned about climate change. 64% have also not yet factored climate into their strategic risk management activities.
The good news is that 69% of Singapore CEOs are increasing long term investment in sustainability and ESG initiatives.
The Chairman of the PwC Network, Bob Moritz, together with leading CEOs from around the world engaged in an hour-long interactive session where the survey’s key findings were revealed. Find out how businesses can deliver sustained outcomes and build trust in the context of the pandemic, digital disruption and the changing nature of society and the environment.
The event is hosted by CNBC Catalyst, a commercial division of CNBC.
“Over the past challenging year, CEOs have had to rethink and reconfigure their strategies and transformation plans, with many accelerating digitisation of their businesses. CEOs now face two fundamental challenges: first, how to build trust with a broad range of stakeholders, whose expectations of business are higher than ever before; and second, how to adapt their businesses and deliver sustainable outcomes in a rapidly changing environment. Organisations that get this right will be best placed to come out of the pandemic as winners with strong, resilient and productive businesses.”