Results of PwC’s 22nd annual global CEO Survey

Almost 30% of business leaders believe that global economic growth will decline in the next twelve months. As only 5% shared this view last year, this represents an unprecedented surge in pessimism.

Results of PwC’s annual global CEO Survey

This result is one of the most important from the 22nd annual survey conducted by PwC of more than 1,300 CEOs worldwide. This view is in vivid contrast to the previous year, when CEOs were far more optimistic about the prospects for global economic growth: whereas only 29% believed in improved global economic growth in 2017, the figure was 57% in 2018.

Swiss CEOs are even more pessimistic – 47% assume that global economic growth will decline in the next twelve months. Due to the rise in trade conflicts and protectionism, there is evidently increased uncertainty.

However, opinions are not entirely negative: 42% still envisage an improved economic situation, a view which is nonetheless clearly below the peak of 57% in 2018. Overall, the CEOs’ views on global economic growth are polarised this year, but on a downward trend.

The CEOs’ fading optimism has also affected growth plans beyond their own national borders: 27% of them see the USA as having reasserted its position as the most important growth market, but this is considerably lower than the 46% recorded in 2018. The popularity of China, the second most attractive market, also fell to 24% from 2018’s figure of 33%. Overall, India is the rising star on the list this year, recently overtaking China as the fastest-growing major economy. (Source: Focus Economics, 2018. The World’s Top 10 Largest Economies (2019-2020).)

Unease about global economic growth has weighed down on CEOs’ trust in the short-term perspectives for their own companies. Compared with 42% last year, 35% of CEOs now say they are “very cautious” about the growth outlook for their own organisation in the next twelve months.
The USA remains the most important growth market in the next twelve months. However, many CEOs are also turning to other markets, and this is reflected in the dramatic decrease in the share of the vote for the USA from 46% in 2018 to only 27% in 2019. China closed the gap, but also recorded a fall in its popularity from 33% in 2018 to 24% in 2019. Alongside the USA (37%), Germany (37%) remains the most important growth market for Swiss companies.

This year’s survey provides deeper insight into the handling of data and artificial intelligence (AI) – two key areas on the radar for managers, which provide a new understanding of challenges and opportunities.

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