Posted on June 03, 2018

KPMG’s latest report ‘2018 Global CEO Outlook’ has shown that chief executive officers (CEOs) across the globe, are positive about the economy and excited by the growth opportunities provided by disruption.

The report also demonstrates that CEOs understand that, to drive growth, they need to combine equal amounts of resourcefulness and realism. The report, titled ‘Growing pains’, analyses the findings from interviews with 1,300 CEOs of large companies globally, and features a spotlight interview with Ali Ahmed Al Kuwari (pictured)–  QNB Group CEO. This is the first time that a Middle Eastern banking sector CEO has featured in the report. The report indicates that CEOs are facing a variety of challenges, such as uncertainty, driving realistic growth, digital transformation and cyber threats, and are focusing on data-driven decision-making.  

Speaking about these findings, Ahmed Abu-Sharkh, KPMG in Qatar’s country senior partner, commented, “The 2018 CEO outlook shows that, globally, business leaders are aware of the various challenges they must overcome to continue to grow; with 90 percent of interviewees being confident in their company’s prospects. Since the blockade began in Qatar 12 months ago, we have seen unparalleled challenge and change for many of the country’s businesses. However, in-line with global sentiment, there have been numerous examples of leaders maintaining a positive outlook and taking a proactive approach towards identifying opportunities to refine and enhance their operations, ultimately securing growth.”

Digitalization was a common theme throughout the report and, along with this, a growing sense of concern around cyber security; with nearly half (49 percent) of CEOs saying that becoming the victim of an attack is a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. On this note, Al-Kuwari commented, “The challenge is to constantly be ahead of the cyber criminals – a task which is very difficult to achieve. While cyber security used to be considered an issue primarily for the IT department, these days it is a permanent agenda item for the entire C-Suite – one that we are all responsible for”.

Other international business leaders also echo Al Kuwari’s concern in the report, which states that CEOs are embracing the digital agenda like never before; with 59 percent considering the protection of customer data as a critical personal responsibility. Overall, cyber security has risen from fifth to second place this year in terms of risks which have the potential to hamper future growth. Only half (51 percent) of respondents indicated they are well-prepared for a cyber attack, even though over half (55 percent) say that a strong cyber strategy is critical to engender trust with key stakeholders.

With customer demands changing continually, and the technology landscape in a constant state of flux, agility and intuition are critical. Around two thirds (67 percent) of CEOs have admitted to relying on their own intuition over data-driven insights to make strategic decisions over the past 3 years, with 51 percent disclosing that they have less confidence in the accuracy of predictive analytics, compared to historic data. However, the quest for ever-greater agility does not mean they simply have to embrace data and intelligent technologies at the expense of human qualities. Abu-Sharkh noted, “While data is hugely important, it is still essential for CEOs to bring in their own intelligence, particularly in a market like Qatar which has unique challenges and potential. Combining their experience and understanding of the market with data-driven, predictive intelligence is essential to helping CEOs lead their businesses effectively”.

The data published in this report titled ‘2018 Global CEO Outlook: Growing pains’ ( ) is based on a survey of 1,300 CEOs in 11 of the world’s largest economies: Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the US. The survey was conducted between 22 January and 27 February 2018. The CEOs operate in 11 key industries: Asset management, automotive, banking, consumer and retail, energy, infrastructure, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, technology and telecom. Of the 1,300 CEOs, 314 came from companies with revenues between US$500 million and US$999 million; 546 from companies with revenues between US$1 billion and US$9.9 billion; and 440 from companies with revenues of US$10 billion or more.