Investors and CEOs upbeat about growth but anxious about cyber threats

26 March 2018

Investors and CEOs are upbeat about the prospects of their own companies, as well as the global economy, according to a new study. However, a range of new challenges faced by modern businesses mean that while organic growth remains their key focus, cyber threats are considered a major threat by investors and CEOs alike.

CEOs have perceptions about the expectations of investors are not always correct or are exaggerations, with executives often perceiving investors as much more cautious than they actually are. In order to further chart the difference between the two groups, a PwC report titled ‘Anxious optimism in a complex world’, considers the views of investors and CEOs in a range of top-line business matters. The research is based on a survey of 663 investment professionals in 96 countries and 1,293 CEOs around the world.

The global economy has improved in recent years, with stronger growth figures in the EU, while immediate concerns around debt levels in China have softened. The US too continues a strong performance on the back of policies implemented prior to the new administration. Equities, even with the recent dip, continue to offer strong returns – particularly if stock buy-backs from the latest round of US tax cuts kick in.

Investor and CEO global growth confidence

The relatively robust performances have seen both investor and CEO respondents, up their forecast for global economic growth over the coming 12 months, with 54% of investors projecting improvement, compared to 45% in last year’s report. On the CEO side, 57% project improvement, up significantly on 29% last year. Few respondents on either side project there to be a decline, at 11% for investors and 5% for CEOs for the coming 12 months.

While most respondents are upbeat about global growth, there is at least some concern around the prospects of the companies invested in by investors and run by CEOs. Investor confidence remains flat, with 23% projecting growth over the coming 12 months, while, for the coming three years, investor confidence fell from 31% last year to 20% this year.

CEOs are somewhat more upbeat in the short term, with 42% saying that they are confident about the prospect of revenue growth in the coming 12 months, up from 38% last year. While for the next three years, 46% are confident about the prospect of revenue growth, down from 51% last year.

Top pathways to growth and profitability

The respondents were also asked what kinds of activities organisations are planning in the coming 12 months in order to drive corporate growth or probability. In terms of how growth is to be achieved in the short- and mid-term, both respondents cited organic growth more highly than inorganic growth – at 79% of CEOs and 70% of investors. Cost reduction remains on the minds of CEOs in particular, at 62%, while almost half of the investors (47%) chimed in with a similar sentiment.

Interestingly, new strategic alliances or joint ventures figured more highly than M&A – the former cited by 49% of CEOs and 39% of investors respectively. Recent analysis shows that while corporates continue to be on the lookout for deals, heated competition with PE firms, among others, has driven up multiples and risks for M&A, with planning for such activity at 42% from CEOs and 39% from investors. Outsourcing appears to have fallen out of favour, cited by 21% of CEOs and 12% of investors.

Investor and CEO disconnects

Respondents were also ask more broadly about potential business, economic, policy, social and environmental threats to company growth prospects. Some major differences were noted between investors on the one side and CEOs on the other.

Investors put cyber threats on the poll position, at 41% of respondents, followed by geopolitical uncertainty. CEOs meanwhile were most concerned about regulation (42%) followed by terrorism – cyber threats came in third spot. Investors, meanwhile, remain concerned about the speed of technological change – raising the spectre of disruption on their investment – while populism and protectionism take fourth and fifth spots respectively. CEOs cited geopolitical uncertainty and the speed of technological change in fourth and fifth spots respectively.


More news on


How First Consulting generates more insight using fewer reports

08 March 2019

Organisations are continuously investing in more advanced data collection and manipulation methods to enable smarter and more informed business decisions. In order to maximise their business value, companies understand the growing need for performance related insights from their data. First Consulting, a consultancy firm specialised in business change, has helped many clients in the utilities sector to deliver effective change through improved use of their data.

Most utilities firms are structured in such a way that every business unit has a team of analysts who are responsible for providing relevant data insights to their business colleagues. The business analysis teams form the link between business decision making and IT by translating business requests into meaningful actions and delivering information via reports.

Typically, the business user will receive a unique report for each information request, with each new report requiring individual, tailored support from the analyst team. This limits the productivity of the analyst teams and minimises their ability to address new data requests. The growing demand for information puts additional pressure on these teams, as a significant amount of time is required simply to gather and update the required data. This has caused reporting portfolios to expand dramatically. However, due to the analysts’ already stretched capacity, reports do not always deliver the most vital information and documentation is often incomplete.

Redesigning information delivery

At First Consulting, business consultants work in close collaboration with their clients to improve the mechanism for the delivery of information and analysis in response to business requests. The improved structure focuses on providing information per role type, rather than per request. As such, one dashboard is designed for each organisational role type, with all the relevant information presented in a single overview. This allows all individuals of a given role type to open a single dashboard and view what they need, as opposed to collating a large range of disparate links and unique reports which, previously, were all required to enable business decision making.

Moving from unique reports for each request, to reusing KPIs in a select group of dashboards

By implementing this new way of working, clients are able to reduce the reporting portfolio from over 100 reports to fewer than 20 dashboards (see figure above). In addition, the capacity for data maintenance can be reduced significantly by using modular KPIs, allowing for the re-use of data across multiple dashboards.

Changing while everyday work continues

In order to deliver effective change, it is essential that day-to-day processes remain unaffected whilst transitioning to a new reporting landscape. First Consulting achieves this by embedding business consultants within the client’s analysis team to gain feedback and determine exactly what visuals are necessary within the dashboards. This focuses effort on the outcome (such as what should be presented in the final dashboard) and allows a broad range of requirements to be considered in the business context and combined, where appropriate.

Key users and stakeholders are involved from the outset to help define what makes a high-quality dashboard. Adopting this approach helps the team to produce an optimal output that contains the key business information for the appropriate roles in an easy-to-use format.

Once it is clear what should be included in the final dashboard and how this should be presented, the team works according to the priorities set out by the product owner. This ensures that analysts work on the requirements which deliver the most value and which form the most coherent dashboards.

Main results

The advantages of implementing straightforward, no-nonsense solutions using fewer reports are particularly noticeable for the business and for the analyst teams:

  • Making adjustments is easier and maintaining and updating data costs less time
  • Management information is displayed in one location and is displayed according to defined standards, facilitating decision making
  • There is greater capacity within the business for complex analysis and project support

First Consulting combines process, technology, and implementation consulting to deliver impactful and value-adding solutions. The firm has more than 200 consultants based in the UK and the Netherlands.