Technological Pace Is UK’s CEOs Key Threat

UK’s CEOs key fears in 2020 has been confirmed to be economic uncertainty and the speed of technological advancements according to a 2020 global research on businesses.

The 23rd CEO Survey was conducted by PwC who interviewed 1,581 CEOs in 83 countries between September and October 2019.

UK CEOs expressed concerns over the fast pace at which technological change has happened and the ever-increasing threat of cyber attacks – with 80% worried about the risk of cyber threats to their firm.

But although three quarters of UK CEOs were anxious about the speed at which technology was moving and citing it as a ‘threat to their business’, they felt it also presented a great deal of opportunities.

The research from PwC suggested “VR and AR alone have the potential to add nearly £2 billion to the UK economy in 2020…”

UK CEOs are particularly worried about the shortage of skills and experience when looking to capitalise on the potential of technologies such as AI as statistics found that 79% see the lack of availability of key skills as a threat to their business.

But 75% believe their upskilling programmes are effective in supporting innovation and accelerated digital transformation.

Marrisa Thomas, UK tax leader – PwC’s UK Management Board Member said:

“CEOs know keeping up with change is not just about teaching people how to use new devices. It’s about learning how to think, operate and thrive in a digital world. They want to make the right tech decisions to help upskill their people and retain a strong and productive workforce. They’re not alone. Upskilling is a priority for society, organisations and governments. By investing across the regions in technology and people, UK businesses are starting the new decade with the right focus. It will not only help retain their workforce but also create new jobs as old ones become automated, capitalising on the UK’s position as a highly skilled and innovative economy.”

In addition, the results found that economic uncertainty is the single largest concern among UK CEOs this year – as 88% of UK CEOs are worried about uncertain economic growth, whereas in comparison it is 81% globally – which is up from 71% last year.

Furthermore, 64% of UK CEOs predict a global economic decline this year, compared to 53% worldwide.

But senior management in the UK are confronting the lack of political, financial and commercial certainty head on to protect what they have built up, while on the look-out for fresh opportunities to grow their firms.

The survey findings indicated that “UK bosses are looking to cut costs while targeting opportunities to grow in new markets and through new products and services.” The results of the report also found that CEOs plan to focus “on upskilling their workforce and investing in their people to accelerate digital transformation, drive higher productivity and build a stronger culture within their organisation.”

Other UK CEO concerns were currency volatility, trade conflicts, future of Eurozone and geopolitical uncertainty. The statistics showed that the proportion of UK CEOS are worried far more about these issues than the rest of the world – but it is believed that Brexit may have been a big influence over UK responses.

However, the majority of UK CEOs feel generally confident about future growth – as 70% of respondents were encouraged about their prospects for revenue growth and 90% are positive when looking 3 years into the future.

Kevin Burrowes, Managing Partner – clients and markets at PwC said:

“After three years of internal focus, now’s the time for UK businesses of all sizes to look outwards. How all of us, as UK business leaders, tackle the challenges of the next 12 months will be interesting to see. My bet is that those who can hold their nerve in the market and invest for the future, by committing to upskilling their people, embracing the opportunities presented by technology and wider disruption, and by making sustainability core to the way they do business, will be the ones who come out on top.”

The UK CEOs are now rising to the challenges ahead with a practical approach, focusing on growth by implementing cost-saving measures and making the most of opportunities to increase revenue and expand their businesses – with 42% saying they are exploring a new market and 65% plan to launch a new product or service.

In addition, over three quarters of UK CEOs are executing operational efficiencies over the next 12 months, which is 72% up from last year.

However, UK CEOS are expecting a fall in employee headcount over the coming 12 months, which has rose by 16% from the previous year.

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