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The KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook COVID-19 Special Edition

The KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook COVID-19 Special Edition offers a unique lens on evolving attitudes as the pandemic has unfolded.

KPMG initially surveyed 1,300 CEOs including in Ireland in January and February, before many key markets were beginning to feel the full impact of lockdowns. Then, in July and early August, we conducted a follow-up survey of 315 CEOs worldwide to understand how thinking has evolved.

From the Managing Partner

In just a few short months, the COVID-19 crisis has turned what in hindsight looked like a relatively positive economic outlook into one of significant uncertainty, writes Seamus Hand, Managing Partner, KPMG in Ireland.

It is making unprecedented demands on CEOs and the teams they lead. Where once the agenda was dominated by issues such as Brexit and the steadily increasing role of digital technology, business leaders in Ireland and around the world are now also having to accelerate or pivot their strategies as many business models become upended by the pandemic.

In this, our fifth CEO survey, we interviewed hundreds of CEOs from many of the world’s largest companies including from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, first in January and then again in July and August, to get their views and to understand how their priorities have changed. The results are striking.

Unsurprisingly, business confidence has taken a hit and has declined steeply as the effects of the crisis impact on both global and national economies. Yet the resilience of business and business leaders has been commendable and continues to give cause for measured optimism. CEOs' confidence in the businesses they lead is more positive than their expectations about the wider economy.

CEOs are accelerating plans for the digital transformation of their companies, they are looking to lock in the environmental gains crystalised by the crisis and critically, they are examining the purpose of the businesses they lead as their people, stakeholders and society at large looks to the role of business in helping resolve many of the challenges faced by society.

Our thanks to the CEOs who participated in our survey. Their insights are invaluable in helping understand the concerns, priorities and ambitions of those leading many of our most successful businesses.

Read the report by chapter