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    The KPMG Irish CEO Outlook provides an in-depth 3-year outlook on enterprise and economic growth from thousands of executives around the world including from Ireland. The full survey launches in September 2021, so watch this space for updates.

Business & economic confidence returns to pre-pandemic levels say Irish CEOs

Irish CEOs are optimistic about the domestic economy with confidence back to pre-COVID levels. Over seven in ten (72 percent) Irish CEOs surveyed are optimistic about Irish growth prospects compared to 56 percent in 2020. They have highlighted that strategies such as joint ventures, M&A, and strategic alliances are the main post-pandemic levers for increased levels of growth.



1. The road to renewal

The pandemic was a true test of leadership for CEOs: they have had to help protect the health and well-being of their employees, make big decisions amid uncertainty, adapt their leadership approach in a virtual environment and prepare for the post-pandemic era. Today, CEOs are facing new challenges as their organisations manage the ongoing impact of the pandemic: balancing the potential to drive growth with uncertainty around the potential of an uneven global recovery.

  • The growth rebound: The vast majority of Irish CEOs are confident in the future success of their organisation, but they are cautious in relation to revenue growth, with over half (56 percent) projecting modest three-year growth of up to 2.5 percent and just over a third (36 percent) expecting growth between 2.5 and 5 percent growth.
  • M&A appetite high: Overall, 84 percent of Irish CEOs say they’re looking to make deals in the next 3 years. Among those, 44 percent characterise their M&A appetite as high.
  • Three-way tie for top risks: When looking at risks for growth over the next 3 years, Irish CEOs identified cyber security, digital disruption, and supply chain, as the top risks.

 

2. The future of work – the office is here to stay

As working from home has become the norm for so many, has the demise of the office been overstated? Organisations and their leadership teams have had to grapple with headcount and resourcing challenges, office investment strategies and how to engage with their teams to keep the business running while they try to hit the right note on attracting and retaining people.

  • Remote working: Almost two thirds (64 percent) of Irish CEOs said that most employees in their organisation will be working remotely at least 2 or more days a week – which is significantly higher than their global peers (37 percent).
  • The talent pool: KPMG Managing Partner Seamus Hand said, “The office is here to stay as the focal point for the vast majority of companies. However, Irish business leaders increasingly recognise the need for greater flexibility and a strong organisational culture given the changing nature of talent acquisition and retention. Transformation of operating models will enable employers of the future to expand their reach into a wider pool of talent.”
  • Keeping the footprint: Only a quarter of Irish CEO’s (24 percent) plan to or have already downsized their physical footprint or office space as a result of the pandemic and changing working habits – down significantly from 88 percent in 2020.  According to Seamus Hand, “CEOs are less likely to see it as necessary to downsize their physical footprint since last year as some of the challenges experienced with remote working have highlighted the value that offices bring in building culture, enabling coaching and facilitating collaboration and innovation.”

3. Trusted purpose – greater demands from stakeholders on ESG

Transparency and accountability are two of the main drivers of the ESG agenda and CEOs and their boards have more focus than ever on a wide range of issues as stakeholders from investors and regulators to customers and employees demand more of organisations.

  • Increased investor scrutiny: A greater proportion of Irish CEOs (80 percent) report a demand from investors, regulators, and customers for increased reporting and transparency on ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues than their counterparts worldwide (58 percent). According to Seamus Hand, “Among the many socio-economic and environmental challenges facing the world, stakeholders are focusing more than ever on ensuring companies are transparent in and accountable for their role in tackling climate change by reducing their carbon footprint but also creating a positive impact on broader society.”
  • State support needed on net zero: 84 percent of Irish business leaders are focused on locking in their sustainability and climate change gains made during the pandemic. However, CEOs in Ireland and worldwide indicate that a multifaceted approach will be required - the vast majority of leaders surveyed (80 percent in Ireland and 77 percent globally) believe that government stimulus is required to turbocharge their goals of reaching net zero.
  • COP26 – a pivotal moment. Over two thirds (68 percent) of Irish CEOs believe that this autumns COP26 climate summit in Glasgow will be a pivotal moment in injecting urgency to the climate change agenda. Commenting on CEO sentiment, Seamus Hand said, “Business transformation is moving with pace to deliver on climate action plans and our Sustainable Futures teams are experiencing high demand for support  helping companies in every sector pivot to a low carbon or net zero future.”

Conclusion

Our survey shows that Irish CEOs are more than willing to lead by example to embrace today’s tough leadership challenges. Building on their renewed optimism on the Irish economy, they intend to lead their teams in a changed and flexible working environment but one which still has the office at the heart of the business. Meanwhile, their increased focus on ESG matters has climate change firmly on the agenda as they also focus on critical issues such as cyber security, disruptive technology, and supply chain disruption.

The full KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook will be published on Tuesday September 14

Methodology

The KPMG CEO Outlook provides an in-depth 3-year outlook from thousands of global chief executives including from Ireland on enterprise and economic growth. 

The KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook asked 1,325 CEOs from among the world’s most influential companies to provide their 3-year outlook on the economic and business landscape, as well the impact that the on-going COVID-19 pandemic will have on their organizations' future. All respondents have annual revenue over US$500M and a third of the companies surveyed have more than US$10B in annual revenue.

The survey was conducted June 29 – August 6 and included leaders from key markets (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, UK and US) and 11 key industry sectors (asset management, automotive, banking, consumer and retail, energy, infrastructure, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, technology, and telecommunications).

Note: Some figures may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.

1 High-growth organizations are defined as those that see earnings growth exceeding 5 percent per annum over the next 3 years.