CEO optimism for a return to growth at record levels

By Kate Birch
CEO confidence returns delivering record levels of optimism in the global economic recovery, according to PwC’s 24th Annual Global CEO Survey...

Almost exactly a year on from the outbreak of the pandemic, CEOs are voicing record levels of optimism in the global economic recovery, with 76% of global business leaders predicting that economic growth will improve in 2021. 

That’s according to PwC’s 24th Annual Global CEO Survey, which this year polled 5,050 CEOs in 100 countries and territories during the months of January and February 2021.

The percentage of CEOs expressing confidence in growth is up from 22% in 2020 and 42% in 2019, representing the highest level of optimism since the survey started asking this question in 2012. 

Optimism among CEOs over global economic growth is particularly strong in North America and Western Europe, with 86% and 76% of CEOs, respectively, from these regions predicting improved global growth in the year ahead. 

Tech and telcos are most confident

And some 36% of those polled said they are “very confident” about their organisation’s prospects for revenue growth over the next 12 months, up from 27% of CEOs in 2020. 

While global confidence is up, there is wide variation across industries, reflecting the varying degrees to which consumer behaviour has been impacted by the pandemic. CEOs in the technology and telecommunications sectors show the highest levels of confidence at 45% and 43%, respectively. 

Meanwhile, CEOs in the transportation and logistics (29%) and hospitality and leisure (27%) sectors are understandably among the least confident about their ability to grow revenues over the next 12 months. 

“After a year of human tragedy and extensive economic hardship, it is encouraging to see that the people responsible for making investment decisions and hiring staff are feeling cautiously optimistic about the year ahead," says Bob Moritz, Chairman of the PwC Network.

During what has been a chaotic year, CEOs have had to "rethink and reconfigure what they do and how they do it", while dealing with stretched balance sheets and supporting employees who have been forced to navigate these extraordinary circumstances. 

According to Moritz, CEOs now face two fundamental challenges. The first is how to build trust with a broad range of stakeholders, whose expectations of business are higher than ever before; and the second, how to adapt their businesses and deliver sustained outcomes in a rapidly changing external environment. 

"Organisations that get this right will be best placed to come out of the pandemic as strong, resilient and productive businesses, able to withstand future shocks.”


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