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Northern Ireland CEO Outlook 2019

Northern Ireland CEO Outlook 2019

Northern Ireland leaders embracing "fast fail" culture to hone innovative edge.

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John Hansen

Deal Advisory Partner

KPMG in Ireland

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Pictured from left are John Hansen, Partner in Charge of KPMG in Northern Ireland and Angela McGowan, Chief Executive of CBI Northern Ireland, who wrote a foreword in the KPMG Global CEO Outlook.

Pictured from left are John Hansen, Partner in Charge of KPMG in Northern Ireland and Angela McGowan, Chief Executive of CBI Northern Ireland, who wrote a foreword in the KPMG Global CEO Outlook.

Northern Ireland’s CEOs are leading the way when it comes to embracing the “fast fail” culture in an effort to make their companies as innovative as possible, according to the Northern Ireland edition of the KPMG Global CEO Outlook.

It found that the majority of Northern Ireland leaders it surveyed want their employees to feel empowered to innovate without worrying about negative consequences if the initiative fails, higher than the result returned from their global peers.

That culture is also more embedded in Northern Ireland with most CEOs surveyed reporting that their companies have a culture in which “fast-failing” unsuccessful innovation initiatives are celebrated, significantly higher than the global survey.

John Hansen, Partner in Charge of KPMG Northern Ireland, said: “Successful CEOs know they need their companies to be as innovative as possible and it’s clear that the right environment is being created in Northern Ireland to do just that. Our leaders aren’t afraid to give their teams the scope to try new ideas which may have a risk of failure and that opens up a world of potential. This level of freedom will no doubt make sure that Northern Ireland companies are at the cutting edge of innovation in the years to come.”

The survey also revealed a group of Northern Ireland leaders exploring new markets, tackling disruption head on and ensuring their businesses are resilient enough to deal with cyber threat by investing in technology and talent.

Sharpening the innovative edge

CEOs who want their employees to feel empowered to innovate: NI - 92% NI, Globally - 84%

CEOs who run companies where a culture of “fast failing” is celebrated: NI - 84% NI, Globally - 56%

CEOs who say they need to improve their innovative process and execution: NI - 92%, Globally – 62%

The majority of those surveyed in Northern Ireland agree or strongly agree that they need to improve their innovation processes and execution, a sharp increase on last year’s report and more then global average. Meanwhile, two thirds of Northern Ireland CEOs said they are transforming their leadership team to build resilience.

Exploring new markets

CEOs exploring emerging markets to grow their exports: NI – 84%, Globally - 63%

CEOs who see Brexit as the greatest threat to growth: NI – 67%, Globally - 44%

To achieve growth, emerging markets are likely to play a big part in exporting with most of those surveyed planning to target less developed economies, more than the global average and an increase on last year’s report where 68% of Northern Ireland leaders said they were looking to emerging markets. Such a focus may be the result of fact two thirds of Northern Ireland respondents see Brexit as the greatest threat to growth, more than the global average.

Technological resilience is key

CEOs who believe in strong cyber security strategy to build trust with stakeholders: NI – 72%, Globally 68%

CEOs who have implemented AI in automating their processes – NI - 12%, Globally - 16%

In 2019, a majority of Northern Ireland CEOs say that a strong cyber strategy is critical to build trust with key stakeholders, up sharply from 16% in 2018. When it comes to automation, only a small fraction of Northern Ireland CEOs have implemented artificial intelligence in automating some of their processes, a figure which only slightly less than the global average.

Personal resilience also plays a part

CEOs who believe the need to be agile has increased: NI – 84%, Globally – 67%

CEOs who had a significant misstep in their early career they were able to overcome: NI – 56%, Globally – 74%

A majority of Northern Ireland CEOs say that, with an average CEO tenure of five years, the need to act with agility has increased. Meanwhile, over half of Northern Ireland say that they had a significant misstep early in their careers that they were able to overcome, less than their global peers.

Keeping ahead of disruption

CEOs whose companies are actively disrupting: NI - 84%, Globally - 63%

The report also revealed that Northern Ireland’s leaders continue to lead the way when it comes to disruption. Most said they are actively disrupting the sectors within which they operate, rather than waiting to be disrupted, compared to just two thirds on a global basis. Although still strong, the reading is slightly lower than last year’s at 92%. It will come as little surprise that disruptive technology is cited as the number one risk to organisational growth.          

Economic confidence

CEOs who expect top line revenue growth over the next three years: NI - 100%, Globally – 100%

CEOs who expect to increase headcount in the next three years of more than 5%: NI - 4%, Globally – 36%

All of those surveyed expect top line revenue growth over the next three years. There was a similar robust showing from headcount expectations with all those surveyed expecting to increase employee number over the next three years, although only a small fraction in NI see it increasing by more than 5% compared to around one third globally.

Angela McGowan, Chief Executive of CBI Northern Ireland, wrote a foreword in the KPMG Global CEO Outlook. She said: “KPMG’s 2019 Global CEO Outlook gives local business leaders some great insights into what is on the radar for chief executives across the globe and raises some important and interesting ideas around what leaders should doing to maintain competitive advantage despite the uncertainty.”

© 2019 KPMG, an Ireland partnership and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International, a Swiss cooperative. All rights reserved.

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