The Anxious Optimist in the Corner Office

21st CEO Survey

This year’s survey looked specifically at how organisations are addressing issues such as confidence in business, competition for talent and growth in a disruptive environment.

Optimistic about global expansion

This year saw the highest-ever jump to the highest-ever level of CEO optimism regarding global growth prospects over the next 12 months. For the first time since we began asking the question in 2012, the majority of CEOs surveyed believe global economic growth will ‘improve’.

CEOs in Belgium are among the most confident with almost two-thirds (63%) believing that it will improve over the next 12 months, compared to 57% globally. They show similar faith in their own business with 89% predicting revenue growth over the coming year and 92% forecasting revenue growth in the next three years.


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Axel Smits

What keeps CEOs up at night?

Looking more closely at the data, we find a tale of optimistic global expansion playing out against a background of concern. Of the broader societal threats that CEOs in Belgium worry about, geopolitical uncertainty tops the list (87%), followed by over-regulation (84%), populism (82%) and climate change and environmental damage (82%).

Climate change seems to be a concern unique to Belgium’s senior management as it scores much less high on the lists of CEOs globally (69%).

With regards business threats to growth, the availability of key skills is the greatest concern for nearly all respondents (89%), notably ahead of cyber threats (79%) and the speed of technological change (76%), indicating anxiety about the impending promise and perils of artificial intelligence (AI) taking hold.

At PwC, we project that AI will contribute an additional US$15.7 trillion to global GDP by 2030, an increase of 14%*. That boon to the overall economy, however, will come at great cost to those who cannot rise to its challenges in time.

Lack of availability of key skills was listed by 89% of respondents in Belgium as a significant threat to their company’s growth prospects.

Securing resources for the future

Lack of availability of key skills was listed by 89% of respondents in Belgium as a significant threat to their company’s growth prospects, a substantial leap from the 76% who reported being concerned about it in last year’s survey.

Specifically with regards digital talent, Belgian CEOs seem to be struggling harder than their counterparts in Western Europe and globally to attract digital talent. Many are putting new initiatives in place to help solve this, including implementing new flexible ways of working, implementing continuous learning and development programmes and modernising the working environment, such as rolling out digital tools and creating collaborative physical environments.

A dichotomy of disruption

While much has been written about how changing customer behaviours disrupt businesses, and indeed global survey results show that that 68% of CEOs believe it will be a disruptive trend for their business.

CEOs in Belgium are most concerned about changes in core technologies of production or service provision (79%) and an increase in the number of direct and indirect competitors, both traditional and new (76%).

Contact us

Axel Smits
Chairman and Senior Partner
Tel: +32 (0)3 259 3120

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