Skip to content Skip to footer

Loading Results

PwC US Pulse

Real-time surveys. Business insights.

Things are changing quickly. And there’s no go-to playbook that has all the answers. But you’re not alone. Other functional leaders — of finance, operations, human capital, risk and tax — and corporate board members are finding their way, too. Tapping into this collective intelligence can help you anticipate what’s next, see how you measure up and spark new ideas for growth. That’s what PwC’s Pulse program is all about.

We regularly engage functional leaders on the pressing issues of the day, including:

  • their outlook on the economic environment
  • what their businesses need to thrive in a post-pandemic economy
  • plans to build trust and transparency, and 
  • a changing policy landscape.

Our regular surveys of executives and board members, webcasts, virtual roundtables and other ways to bring peers together will help you make sense of the signals we’ll surface through Pulse.

CFOs: Growth opportunities outweigh risk concerns


High growth opportunity
High risk

Sustainability (net zero economy)
%
%
Shifts in consumer behavior as a result of the pandemic
%
%
US-China tensions
%
%
Global trade and tax policy
%
%
Growth of digital economy
%
%
Work from home shift
%
%
Policies promoting nearshoring or US reshoring
%
%
Increase in interest rates
%
%
Inflation
%
%
A more intrusive regulatory environment in the US
%
%

Q: How would you characterize the impact of these macroeconomic trends on your business model in terms of risk and growth opportunity?
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey, March 12, 2021: CFO base of 182

C-suite leaders pursue growth in 2021

Business leaders are optimistic about the current US pandemic response and a US economic recovery. Still, more than half of C-suite executives believe their business prospects are intertwined with the reopening of schools and supporting burned-out employees. 

With an acute awareness of their own role in rebooting work and lives in 2021 after a devastating year, many business leaders are taking concrete action. Supporting and strengthening a pandemic-weary workforce and growing trust among all stakeholders are top of the business agenda.

What do executives consider most important to drive post-pandemic recovery?

Learn more


What’s top of mind in the C-suite?

CFOs and finance leaders

With a year of COVID-19 disruption and the many challenges that came with it behind them, CFOs’ outlook for 2021 is brighter. CFOs are moving from a defensive posture to a more offensive stance, looking at lasting changes from the pandemic as opportunities for growth. Our latest Pulse survey findings show that CFOs see significant growth opportunities in key areas around the digital economy, consumer behavior shifts because of the pandemic and the work-from-home shift. As they lead the charge toward growth, CFOs are also bullish about the economy and their role in helping shape strategy.

Learn more

CFOs see strong revenue growth

Increase in revenue

CFOs see strong revenue growth
Q: Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements about your company's response to the COVID-19 pandemic to date. (Responses to ‘strongly agree’)
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey
November 13, 2020: CFO base of 227

Tax leaders

A rising tax rate environment is dominating the focus of many tax departments, with 66% of tax leaders prioritizing planning in anticipation of potentially rising effective tax rates this year. But only 37% of tax leaders say engaging with policymakers and stakeholders is a top priority. And it’s not just US tax rates that may be rising. Companies with global operations also will need to plan for potential tax rate changes in other countries. Enhancing the tax department operating model is another priority for almost half tax leaders.

Learn more

Preparing for an increase in tax rates

Preparing for an increase in tax rates
Q: What are the top priorities for your tax function in 2021? (Select three)
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey, March 12, 2021: Tax leader base of 155

COOs and operations leaders

As shipping bottlenecks and semiconductor shortages put US supply chains through another test, operations leaders are planning multiple moves to get ahead of the next shock. They are investing in technologies that can speed up insights into customer shifts or supplier problems, and they’re lining up alternatives to break dependencies on sole suppliers. Leaders are also looking ahead to tackle demands to perform in a fast-digitizing world. COO priorities for the year show a near-equal balance of meeting the growth agenda, such as faster fulfillment or building supplier flexibility, with meeting cost imperatives.

Learn more

Productivity, ESG and costs top COO priorities for supply chain operations

Productivity, ESG and costs top COO priorities for supply chain operations
Q. What are the top three priorities this year in your supply chain operations?
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey, March 12, 2021: COO base of 93

CHROs and human capital leaders

Chief human resource officers (CHROs) are taking charge of inventing a new vision for work in a post-pandemic world, and they’re focusing on the employee experience. From new initiatives around purpose and upskilling to investments aimed at improving remote work, CHROs are considering how the world has changed and what employees need in order to thrive in it. CHROs are also focused on accelerating adoption of digital skills and continuing efforts to address employee health and burnout.

Learn more

Top workforce priorities for CHROs

Top workforce priorities for CHROs
Q: What are your top workforce priorities for 2021?
Totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey, March 12, 2021: CHRO base of 94

Risk management leaders

Most risk management leaders are very optimistic or somewhat optimistic about the US economy and the global economy. And while digitization will likely be a driver of growth this year, 65% of risk management leaders say that risks from transformation adoption and tech will increase. Risk executives also expect risks around cyber and data protection risks, data governance, and human capital and talent management to change. Meanwhile, risk leaders are focusing on risk management capabilities that are both human-led and tech-powered.

Learn more

2021: A year fraught with rising risks

Responses to ‘Significantly increased’ and ‘Somewhat increased’

2021: A year fraught with rising risks
Q: To what extent, if at all, have the following risks to your organization changed for 2021? (Responses to ‘Significantly increased’ and ‘Somewhat increased’)
Source: PwC Pulse Survey, March 12, 2020: Risk management leaders base of 106

Corporate board directors

Corporate directors are maintaining their focus on overseeing strategy, talent and cybersecurity, as environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues move to center stage. Issues like diversity and inclusion continue to gain prominence on boards’ agendas in response to the social unrest of last summer, increased investor focus, new human capital management disclosure requirements and state laws mandating board diversity. Crisis management and board culture rank lower on directors’ list of priorities

Learn more

Top board priorities for 2021


Top board priorities for 2021

Q: A year into the pandemic and heading into 2021 proxy season, which areas beyond financial reporting and risk management/related controls will be top priorities for your board? (Select three)
Source: PwC US Pulse Survey, March 12, 2021: Corporate board member base of 102

Past PwC surveys

To view data and insights from PwC Pulse Surveys, please see below.

Election 2020: November | October | September

Workforce

COVID-19

PwC Pulse Survey Webcast: March 25

Vaccine rollouts are bringing the end of the pandemic economy into view just as the Biden administration is looking to implement its agenda — fast. Is your company keeping up? Hear the results of our latest PwC Pulse Survey and learn what business leaders are saying about their growth prospects and investment priorities for 2021.

Register

Contact us

Neil Dhar

Neil Dhar

Vice Chair - Chief Clients Officer, PwC US

J.C. Lapierre

J.C. Lapierre

Chief Strategy and Communications Officer, PwC US

Follow us