ASEAN CEOs cautiously optimistic about growth in the face of unprecedented headwinds

The outlook appears to be bright as 88% of ASEAN CEOs are confident about their company’s growth prospect in the next 3 years, a sentiment shared by CEOs globally.

However, according to the 2018 Global CEO Outlook report by KPMG International, this optimism is married with a healthy dose of realism as 77% of ASEAN leaders are predicting a cautious revenue growth of 2% or less over the next three years for their organization. More than half of CEOs in ASEAN also noted the need to hit growth targets before hiring new skills. Consequently, they expect headcount to increase by less than 5% over the next three years.

Datuk Johan Idris, Managing Partner of KPMG in Malaysia comments, “Across the board, CEOs are driving growth against a backdrop of significant demographic shifts, geopolitical volatility and the seemingly inevitable future cyberattacks. It’s clear that driving growth in 2018 and beyond will require CEOs to combine resourcefulness and realism in equal measure.”

The ever-present risk of a cyber security threat is rising on the radar; up from fifth to second place overall this year in terms of risks hampering future growth. Digital innovation can create significant value across business models, customer experience and operations. But greater connectivity brings increasing cyber vulnerability, and about half of all CEOs around the world say that a cyberattack is now a case of when, instead of if. And yet, many CEOs are concerned about the robustness of their defenses, only half of CEOs in ASEAN believe that their organization is well prepared for a cyberattack.

Two-thirds (66%) of CEOs in ASEAN are struggling to run parallel processes to transform the digital and non-digital aspects of their business, to a greater extent than their global counterpart (30%). Nevertheless, ASEAN CEOs are embracing the digital agenda like never before and taking personal ownership of data and trust. Instead of waiting to be disrupted, 70% of CEOs in ASEAN are actively disrupting the sector they are operating in, markedly higher than the percentage recorded at the global level (54%).


When it comes to sources of information ASEAN business leaders trust the most for strategic decisions, KPMG’s study found their trusted sources ranked as follows: social media (87%), independent secondary information providers (81%), open data from government agencies (71%), traditional media (65 %) and government commissioned research (51%).


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