Singapore CEOs more confident in the country’s growth prospects: KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook Survey

The KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook draws on the perspectives for the future of 1,325 CEOs across 11 major markets, including Singapore. CEOs around the world are more optimistic about the economic recovery and continue to put an emphasis on leading with purpose. At the same time, climate change and global minimum tax are recognised as major challenges going forward.

Singapore CEOs surveyed across sectors are more bullish about Singapore’s growth potential and their companies’ earning power over the next three years, compared to their global peers’ sentiments on their respective countries and organisations.

About 92 per cent of Singapore CEOs surveyed expressed confidence for Singapore’s growth outlook as compared to 82 per cent of CEOs globally on the growth outlook of their respective countries. Confidence levels for Singapore CEOs were 80 per cent in 2020, compared to 76 per cent in 2020 for their global peers.


Singapore business leaders also predicted that their company’s earnings will increase in the next three years. Most Singapore CEOs (72 per cent) suggested an earnings outlook of up to 5 per cent per annum. About 24 per cent of Singapore CEOs surveyed were relatively more optimistic, suggesting an earnings outlook of 5 to 20 per cent per annum over the next three years, versus the global figure of 14 per cent of CEOs who felt the same way. This is a sharp contrast to 2020, when zero per cent of Singapore CEOs surveyed felt their company’s earnings could be higher than 5 per cent per annum.

However, Singapore CEOs are feeling the heat from the climate change agenda especially where their salaries are increasingly tied to environmental, social and governance (ESG) outcomes. About 94 per cent of Singapore CEOs are expecting to be increasingly held personally responsible for driving progress in addressing social issues, as compared to 71 per cent of CEOs globally. 68 per cent of Singapore CEOs and 84 per cent of CEOs globally still do not believe that their pay should be based on performance against ESG goals on top of financial performance goals. However, 63 per cent of Singapore CEOs reported that their pay is already tied to ESG outcomes as compared to just 30 per cent globally who said the same. Specifically, 80 per cent from Singapore shared that their annual bonus is tied significantly to ESG performance, while 40 per cent said ESG is tied to their base salary and long-term incentives plans. In contrast, 76 per cent globally have their annual bonus linked to ESG performance, and 53 per cent to long term incentive plans; but only 15 per cent have ESG performance tied to base salary.

Another worry is the global tax deal that is expected to come into effect from 2023. 4 in 5 Singapore CEOs say the implications are of “significant concern”, as compared to 74 per cent globally. Majority of CEOs here (88 per cent) are feeling increased pressure to boost public reporting of their global tax contributions, more so than their global peers (68 per cent). They are also acutely aware that how their organisation approaches tax will affect public trust in their businesses.

At the same time, CEOs in Singapore are cognizant of the global war for talent. 24 per cent of them said a top operational priority will be to attract and retain the necessary talent. Compared to last year, more than double of them (38 per cent in 2021 vs 14 per cent in 2020) will prioritise how they reward and incentivise talent. About 84 per cent of Singapore CEOs also expect more jobs to be created over the next three years, as compared to 88 per cent of CEOs globally.

Our survey shows that CEOs are more than willing to lead by example to embrace today’s tough leadership challenges. They intend to deliver on their purpose commitments, making the ESG investments and changes necessary to address inequity and launch the race to net zero. They also look to drive growth and prosperity through digital agility and business model innovation, while ensuring that aggressive technology investments are matched by investment in human capabilities and skills.