CEOs bullish on economic growth for 2021

Leaders are also confident in their own company's prospects for revenue growth, according to PwC's latest CEO survey.


As we mark one year of pandemic lockdowns, economic optimism is rising, at least according to the latest insights from PwC.

In January and February of this year, PwC’s annual global CEO survey polled more than 5,000 CEOs of companies across 100 countries, including Canada, 83% of which report revenues of between $100 million and $10 billion US.

The insights reveal 76% of CEOs believe global economic growth will improve in 2021. That’s nearly three-and-a-half times higher than the same period last year (22%).

The figure actually represents the most sanguine attitude PwC has reported since the professional services network began asking this question back in 2012. 

Global growth optimism among CEOs is particularly strong in North America: 86% of these C-Suite level executives are predicting improved numbers in the year ahead. This is followed by Europe at 76%. 

Also encouraging: 36% of CEOs polled are “very confident” in their organizations’ prospects for revenue growth over the next 12 months, up 9% from 2020.

The survey findings show that the U.S. has extended its lead as the number one market CEOs are pointing to as the source for growth in 2021, at 35%. And according to PwC, CEOs are reducing their emphasis on China as a growth driver and increasing their focus on Canada and Mexico. 

While global confidence to grow revenue is up, the glass half-full sentiment is not distributed evenly: leaders in the technology sector show the highest levels of confidence (45%) compared with the lowest in hospitality and leisure (27%).

According to the survey, cybersecurity remains a persistent worry, particularly for North American CEOs. Rising digitization – nearly half of CEOs (49%) project increases of 10% or more on digital transformation spending – coupled with a spike in cyber incidents like ransomware attacks, has put the issue top-of-mind, with 47% of global CEOs citing cybersecurity as a concern, compared with 33% in 2020. Despite rising concern levels, organizations have been slow to take definitive action, according to PwC.

Similarly, while the percentage of CEOs expressing concern about climate change has risen from 24% in 2020 to 30% in 2021, 60% of CEOs have not yet factored climate risks into their strategic risk management activities.