The KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook COVID-19 Special Edition finds the world’s chief executives using this unparalleled moment in history to lead with increased purpose and impact, both societal and economic. They are protecting their people, building trusted relationships with customers and communities, and defining a new future of growth and success for their organizations.

The 2020 CEO Outlook offers a unique lens on evolving attitudes as the pandemic has unfolded. KPMG initially surveyed 1,300 CEOs 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 ‘pulse’ survey of 315 CEOs to understand how thinking has evolved. 

“Recovery from the pandemic does not mean a return to normal, but instead an opportunity to define our post-pandemic reality. As the crisis continues to change what good corporate leadership looks like, the role of the CEO is more important than ever in steering the business towards growth in the new reality and beyond.”

Datuk Johan Idris
Managing Partner
KPMG in Malaysia

Overall, three key themes emerged from this year’s survey, which we characterize as Purpose, Prosperity and Priorities.


CEOs are rewriting the leadership playbook to create more trusted and purposeful organizations that play a critical role in addressing societal challenges

CEOs around the world have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by putting even more focus on Purpose, helping to signpost to employees and stakeholders why their company exists and how it aims to contribute to the world at large. 

Businesses around the world have developed a renewed sense of purpose as a result of the crisis, and are prioritizing efforts across the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda as a real business imperative. 

Source from KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook: COVID-19 Special Edition - Asia Pacific highlights


As well as near-term crisis response, CEOs are looking to the future to position their businesses for long-term growth and prosperity

Earlier this year, 67 percent of CEOS in Asia Pacific expressed confidence in the growth prospects of the global economy. 85 percent in turn expressed confidence in the growth prospects of their company.

However, the COVID-19 crisis has since shaken CEO confidence, with fewer CEOs saying they are confident now than they were at the start of the year when reflecting on business and growth prospects over the next three years.

CEOs have identified talent risk as the main threat to growth, a category which encompasses recruitment/retention, overall wellbeing and health of staff. This was the threat that CEOs were least concerned about at the beginning of the year. As a result of this pandemic, it has now risen to be the highest perceived threat to long-term growth.

Source from KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook: COVID-19 Special Edition - Asia Pacific highlights

Though the pandemic has caused disruption to businesses around the world, CEOs are still focused on channeling resources towards digital transformation initiatives to secure long-term growth. 



CEOs are doubling down on long-term transformation priorities to build the dynamic capabilities needed to succeed in the future.

COVID-19 has effectively forced many organizations to experiment radically with how work is done. The biggest example for this is the shift towards remote working.

Though there has been a rise in supply chain concerns compared to earlier in the year, CEOs are using this opportunity to ask how their supply chain can become a competitive advantage in the new reality that emerges.

Primary reasons: 
  • To become more agile in response to changing customer needs; 
  • To become more robust in the event of natural world disasters