Each year when we release KPMG's Global CEO Outlook there are surprises in the data, including viewpoints from top executives that may seem to defy the daily headlines and conventional wisdom.
That's the case with our 4th annual study, based on interviews with 1,300 CEOs from 11 of the world's largest economies, to uncover their strategic priorities over the next 3 years.
Among the intriguing findings: despite the seemingly high state of geopolitical uncertainty around the world - and a move towards protectionism in some regions - many global CEOs are increasingly bullish on conquering emerging markets to grow their organizations.
For example, when asked about the geographic markets they will prioritize for expansion, 70 percent of CEOs cited emerging markets, versus 28 percent who are focused on developed markets. This is a shift from our 2017 Global CEO Outlook, in which CEOs said they planned to concentrate their growth efforts in developed markets such as the US or UK.
Looking more closely at this trend, among CEOs who have set their sights on emerging markets, Central and South America is the most favored area for growth, followed by Eastern Europe, with the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa garnering a smaller share of CEO interest.
It's also interesting that CEOs based in Italy, the Netherlands and the US are most bullish on the Latin American region, and industries most enthused about the southern continent are the technology, consumer and retail, insurance and telecom sectors.
What's driving this attraction to emerging markets? The CEOs I speak to see the demographic potential and steady economic growth in many of the Latin American countries. Continued liberalization of trade in the region is no doubt also a draw, despite current uncertainty over NAFTA in Mexico and political volatility in several countries in the region.