One year after Covid-19 was declared a 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.
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, , according to PricewaterhouseCoopers's (PwC) 24th Annual Global CEO Survey released on 11 March.
The survey polled 5,050 CEOs in 100 countries and territories between January and February 2021.
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.
"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." said Bob Moritz, chairman of the PwC Network.
He further said, "CEOs have faith that growth will return, boosted by the rapid development of vaccines and their rollout in many parts of the world".
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 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, he added.
CEO confidence in revenue growth rebounds to long-term average
The survey also revealed that CEOs are more optimistic about the outlook for their businesses.
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.
CEOs in the transportation and logistics (29%) and hospitality and leisure (27%) sectors are among the least confident about their ability to grow revenues over the next 12 months.
Meanwhile, rising digitisation is increasing the risks posed by cyber threats. in 2020, this, coupled with the significant increase in cybersecurity incidents, including ransomware attacks, has resulted in cyber threats leaping up the list to become the number two concern, cited by 47% of CEOs compared to 33% in 2020.
Cyber threats are a concern particularly for CEOs in North America and Western Europe, where they are considered a greater threat than the pandemic.