Most Canadian CEOs expect global economic growth decline in 2020

26 February 2020 Consulting.ca

Sixty-three percent of Canadian CEOs believe global economic growth will decline over the next 12 months, according to PwC’s CEO Survey. Canadian chief executives’ top areas of concern include uncertain economic growth, cyber threats, skills shortages, and climate change.

Canadian CEOs were more pessimistic about global growth than the global average, where 52% expect a decline in economic growth in 2020.

Nonetheless, 70% of Canadian CEOs are confident about their organizations’ potential for growth in the next year. According to the PwC survey, Canadian leaders expect to focus on organic growth and operational efficiencies rather than entering a new market – only 32% plan to enter a new market in 2020 versus 52% in 2019. Fewer Canadian CEOs are planning to embark on new M&A, launch a new product or service, or collaborate with startups than in 2019. Eighteen percent, meanwhile, expect to sell a business in 2020, compared to 14% last year.

Seventy-five percent of Canadian CEOs are worried about the availability of key skills. CEOs also admitted they’re lagging in creating upskilling programs to deliver soft, technical, and digital skills. According to the report, some CEOs find it difficult prove upskilling efforts have been effective at increasing productivity, growing business, or fostering innovation – which could be attributed to an inability to properly measure and benchmark the initiatives.

Prospects for global economic growth over the past five years

As more investors and boards are requiring ESG metrics and the effects of climate change are increasingly felt, leaders are tuning in to the issue. Sixty-two percent of Canadian CEOs said they are concerned about climate change and environmental damage as threats to their growth. 

"Canadian CEOs from St. John's to Victoria are firmly focused on succeeding in times of uncertainty," said Nicolas Marcoux, CEO of PwC Canada. "Regardless of industry and geography, they're largely grappling with the same themes as they look to uncover growth in a slow growth environment. These include the imperative to upskill their workforce, integrate environmental practices into their operations and safeguard their organizations from increased cyber security risks."

Eighty percent of Canadian CEOs said they were concerned about cyber threats as a real danger to their organization’s growth prospects. Ninety percent said the increasing complexity of threats had the greatest impact on shaping their cybersecurity strategy, versus 75% last year.

"Canada's digital economy is thriving and with this comes the need for Canadian businesses to balance cyber risk with their digital transformation journey," Marcoux added. "Public and private sector collaboration is essential to ensure that cyber and data privacy laws are sound and developed with the best interests of Canadians in mind."


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