Knowledge & Insight

CEO outlook

Mon 25 November 2019

UK firms do business within an increasingly complex ecosystem, and CEOs must develop strategies that recognise a broad range of challenges: Brexit, an evolving trading environment, disruptive new technologies and businesses models, plus the knowledge that they are doing business in, and potentially contributing to, a rapidly changing environment. To succeed in the face of such uncertainty requires an approach that turns threats into opportunities, and that’s precisely what forward-thinking CEOs are doing. Instead of responding to the threat posed by innovative tech start-ups, they are establishing their own incubator hubs. And they are embracing new platforms that give them the agility to respond to aggressive new entrants – ‘big’ no longer means slow to act.

The Brexit paradox

A recent white paper published by KPMG highlights the divergent views of UK and European CEOs. Whilst the paper clearly illustrates that the ‘threat’ of Brexit has for some time been weighing down consumer confidence, impacting businesses’ ability to plan ahead, and delaying investment decisions, UK CEOs have a remarkably positive outlook for the post-Brexit UK economy vis-à-vis the global outlook. And despite stories of high profile brands threatening to pull out of the UK should the country leave the EU, it seems that business leaders in China, Japan and the US see post-Brexit UK as an increasingly attractive investment opportunity. The challenge for CEOs of UK firms therefore, is to exploit this positive sentiment and seize the energy from this new wave of optimism.

Environment on 2020 risk radar

For many CEOs, environmental concerns have existed for some time as background noise. But in 2019 everything changed, and climate is now right up there on the risk agenda. It is inevitable that firms will be forced to navigate a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy, and the impact of this shift will differ enormously from sector to sector. Yet astute leaders are increasingly treating the approaching revolution as yet another opportunity – a chance to engineer advantage over the competition. But the pressure is on, because investors are already beginning to shy away from sectors and specific companies which they suspect may be at risk of failing to adapt. For CEOs the challenge is clear – to embrace clean technologies, drive efficiencies, and develop new models fit for a cleaner global economy.

Disruption – threat or opportunity?

Disruptive new technologies and business models have traditionally been regarded as major threats to incumbent businesses, yet CEOs of large companies are increasingly recognising that operating in a disrupted marketplace is the new normal, and that disrupting the status quo must be an integral part of any growth strategy. So can disruption ever be controlled? By definition, probably not. But it is possible to take the lead in driving disruption, both to head off innovative new entrants and to out-innovate traditional competitors. Yet disruptive innovation isn’t just about new tech – it’s about finding new ways to do business, to connect with customers, and to attract and retain top talent. 

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