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Global CEO Outlook 2017: The outlook for South Africa

Global CEO Outlook 2017: The outlook for South Africa

The South African CEO Outlook offers deep insight into the challenges and opportunities faced by 50 CEOs leading many of the country’s largest and most complex businesses.


Communications Manager

KPMG in South Africa


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CEO Outlook

The research offers a unique lens through which to view the strategic issues these CEOs are focusing on as they lead their businesses through a period of profound change and significant opportunity.

KPMG’s 2017 CEO Outlook report provides insights of South African CEOs’ expectations for business growth, the challenges they face and their strategies to chart organisational success over the next three years. Key findings include:

  • In 2017, South African CEOs are not as confident about the prospects for the global economy (42 percent).
  • Almost seven in 10 CEOs (68 percent) see disruption as an opportunity, not a threat, for their business. And overwhelming 86 percent say that their organisations are actively disrupting the sector in which they operate.
  • Within their own businesses, six in 10 CEOs describe themselves as confident in their company’s growth prospects for the next three years.
  • Nine in 10 (92 percent) say they are evolving their skills and personal qualities to better lead their business.

Disrupt and Grow

In last year’s CEO Outlook, we said it was “now or never” for CEOs focused on making transformative change in their companies. In the year since, many top executives have clearly made progress toward achieving their goals. But those 12 months have also seen new waves of uncertainty that are compelling CEOs to think in fresh ways about the disruptive forces impacting their businesses. Our advice of “now or never” still stands, but the CEOs we have spoken to are telling us that in the face of new challenges and uncertainties, they are feeling the urgency to “disrupt and grow”.

This year’s Outlook emphasises that disruption has become a fact of life for CEOs and their businesses as they respond to heightened uncertainty. But importantly, most see disruption as an opportunity to transform their business model, develop new products and services and reshape their business so it is even more successful than it has been in the past.

The majority of CEOs we spoke to for this year’s study are still optimistic about their company and its prospects, as well as the national and global economy they operate within, although less so than last year. They say that they are taking the necessary steps for their business to be a disruptor, rather than the disrupted. They recognise the impact of increased geopolitical and economic uncertainties on their business, and are working hard to be prepared. Moreover, they understand that speed to market and innovation are strategic priorities for growth in these uncertain conditions.

With continued pressure to deliver on the bottom line, CEOs are keenly focused on managing their business’ core strengths while transforming the way they create value. Operating in a more complex and rapidly changing environment is also challenging CEOs like never before, with an expanding breadth of skills and expertise needed to lead their organisations. CEOs need to stimulate innovation, oversee new types of customer relationships, manage heightened reputational risks and make bold decisions about their investments in technology. In the wake of these challenges, it isn’t surprising that a significant number of the CEOs we spoke to say they are working to develop new skills and capabilities, as well as exploring new ideas and influences, so as to drive essential change across their business.

Our 2017 CEO Outlook offers rich insights into the major forces disrupting today’s business landscape, and how today’s CEOs are equipping their companies, and themselves, to manage the challenges of the future. On behalf of KPMG, I would like to thank every one of the CEOs we spoke with for their honesty. We are excited to talk further about these insights, and KPMG’s partners and professionals welcome the opportunity to discuss how you can ‘disrupt and grow’ your organisation.

Makgotso Letsitsi

Executive Director

KPMG in South Africa

Explore the Survey

Amid economic turbulence, geopolitical instability and massive business disruption, the pressure on CEOs is mounting. View the 2017 Global CEO Survey: 

CEO Outlook

Key findings on the South African 2017 CEO Outlook

The Chief Disruptor: In a time of growing uncertainty, we find CEOs disrupting or challenging their own role in order to better lead the business.

  • Almost seven in 10 (68%) respondents say they have taken steps to disrupt their role in the last 12 months.
  • A similar proportion say they are more open to new influences and collaborations than at any other point in their career.
  • Only 26% believe their emotional intelligence is as important as their technical skills.
  • Of three personas identified during this research, the largest group is the “positive disruptor” – CEOs who remain committed to innovation and challenging the status quo despite the changing economic landscape.

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© 2019 KPMG Services (Pty) Limited, a South Africa private company and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International, a Swiss cooperative. All rights reserved.

KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”) is a Swiss entity.  Member firms of the KPMG network of independent firms are affiliated with KPMG International. KPMG International provides no client services. No member firm has any authority to obligate or bind KPMG International or any other member firm vis-à-vis third parties, nor does KPMG International have any such authority to obligate or bind any member firm.

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