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CEOs more positive than a year ago, PwC finds

Jan 24
Tags: PwC
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CEOs more positive than a year ago, PwC finds

Research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has provided further evidence that attitudes in the UK business community are recovering from the shock of last year's EU referendum result.

In its 20th annual CEO survey, published at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the consulting firm revealed that chief executive officers are more positive about growth prospects for their own companies than they were 12 months ago.

This research follows on from the latest survey of chief financial officers by Deloitte, published in December, which showed that optimism among the UK's largest businesses had climbed to the highest level in 18 months.

In the PwC study, nearly nine out of ten UK business leaders (89 percent) expressed confidence about their company's growth prospects over the coming year. This is up from 85 percent last year and compares favourably with Germany's figure of 77 percent.

The proportion of CEOs who said they were very confident about the future performance of their business rose by eight percentage points to 41 percent.

Furthermore, the research showed that this positive outlook extends beyond the short term. Nearly all respondents to the UK survey (95 percent) expressed optimism about growth prospects over the next three years, compared with 83 percent in Germany and 91 percent across the globe.

Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC, said it was encouraging to see growth "firmly on the agenda" of UK plc, particularly in the wake of an "eventful 2016".

He added: "We may face a period of uncertainty, but the economic fundamentals remain positive and businesses should keep calm and carry on doing what they do best - capitalising on the UK's strengths and attractiveness to the rest of the world, and seeking out new opportunities. UK CEOs are resilient and realistic about the challenges ahead; maintaining a positive mindset and staying focused on what they can control is vital."

The research also provided positive signs for employment, showing that, generally, UK bosses are "in hiring mode". Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) expected to expand their workforce over the coming year, compared with 52 percent of their global counterparts.

Furthermore, the proportion of respondents anticipating a fall in headcount halved, from 20 percent in 2016 to ten percent at the start of this year.

As far as threats to business go, access to key skills is seen as the biggest risk, with more than four out of five CEOs (83 percent) identifying this as a concern, up from 71 percent last year.

Adaptability and problem solving, leadership and collaboration, and creativity and innovation are the skills most highly valued by business leaders, but also the hardest to acquire, the study found.

Mr Ellis also underlined the importance of the UK being able to attract businesses and people with the right tech expertise, and also developing these capabilities internally.

"With the current pace of technological change it is hard to predict what jobs will look like in the future, so as well as developing digital skills it is important that employees are adaptive and able to respond to the next skills challenge," he added.

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Image: Rawpixel Ltd via iStock

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