C-suite told confidence will be tested as threats loom

Business leaders have been told they will have their confidence tested as current and future challenges loom.

Audit, tax and advisory firm, Mazars, has released its C-Suite barometer, which found leaders overwhelmingly expect to transform their business, with technology and sustainability-related transformations at the forefront.

Conducted at the end of 2021, the report found over two thirds (68%) of respondents expect their business to go through a technology transformation in the next three to five years, followed by 62% expecting transformation in their sustainability strategy. Both have increased sharply from last year’s figures (18% higher in both cases), making them clear areas of focus for businesses moving forward.

The company questioned 1,000 executives around the world to understand their concerns, gain first-hand insights into their markets and understand the opportunities and challenges they see ahead.

Commenting on the results, Mark Kennedy, partner & group executive board member, said while confidence is rising there are storm clouds that may dampen the current feeling.

“As businesses look forward, there will inevitably be challenges,” he explained. “Our respondents have a sense of confidence and resilience: with the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the far-reaching consequences of the horrifying invasion of Ukraine, these are qualities that are likely to be tested once again this year.”

The report found technology is at the core of business growth and it is likely to remain a priority focus for businesses for many years. Nearly all leaders (94%) believed trends in technology and innovation will have the biggest impact on their business in the coming years, with 82% planning to increase investment in maintaining and evolving IT systems. But alongside that, the risk of cyber-crime is growing, with half (54%) believing cyber risks have increased within the past year, and over a third (35%) expecting a significant breach within the next year. Yet, the majority (68%) remain confident their data is completely protected.

Kennedy continued: “Tech has been a priority focus for businesses for many years, and it’s likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. That is in part because we are seeing a shift and acceleration in digital strategies. It also reflects that most clients and consumers expect to be able to interact with all organisations in a digital way, and organisations need to keep focusing on technological enhancement if they don’t want to get left behind. Crucial to this will be investing in and retaining the best tech talent, bringing technologists into the boardroom, and developing a digital strategy that sets out how you address the issues around cyber related risks.”

The barometer revealed that environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are now a clear priority for leaders and are playing an increasingly central role in C-suite decision making. Nearly half (46%) of large companies ($1 billion+ revenue) and 43% overall see ESG as essential to their long-term growth. Over half C-suite executives (58%) say Covid-19 has sharpened their focus on ESG and in large companies ($1 billion+ revenue), 70% say this has increased. Three quarters (75%) plan to increase investment in sustainability initiatives over the next 12 months, and more than half have already made public commitments on a range of ESG issues.

Reputation and customer expectations top the list of reasons to invest in ESG, according to business leaders in Europe, CEE and Asia Pacific. Nearly half (46%) of large companies and 43% overall see ESG as essential to their long-term growth. However, funding and complexity are still considered the most significant barriers to ESG investment. This is particularly true for smaller companies ($1 million – $100 million) as 58% are held back by funding and 54% by complexity vs 45% and 46% respectively for large businesses ($1 billion+).

“When it comes to people, sourcing new talent is one of the top three biggest areas of increase in investment by leaders. “Attracting and retaining top talent can be challenging and businesses need to understand what employee’s value today. As business prepare for the changes ahead, they mustn’t overlook the importance of engaging people in a meaningful way. Businesses that can demonstrate their values through their actions, and in doing so, attract, retain and develop the best people, will be at a considerable advantage.” Kennedy concluded.

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