Top findings from the 2021 KPMG U.S. CEO Outlook Survey

500 CEOs weigh in on the key challenges and opportunities driving business growth over the next three years

Linda Imonti

Linda Imonti

Managing Principal, Chicago, National Ignition Leader, KPMG LLP

+1 312-972-2649

Featuring insights from 500 CEOs at large companies around the world, including 140 in the United States, the latest KPMG U.S. CEO Outlook provides a timely look at the key challenges and opportunities in driving business growth over the next three years and CEOs’ responses to the ongoing pandemic.

The survey was released during the first half of 2021 amidst the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine as CEOs continued to lead their organizations through a period of vast change and uncertainty. CEOs remain confident in the domestic economy and the opportunities for growth in their businesses as they prepare for a new reality.

“CEOs have taken measures to transform their companies during the pandemic," said Linda Imonti, office managing principal of KPMG in Chicago. “As they continue to look to the future, they are focused on prioritizing and accelerating these initiatives, to enable growth and optimize the bottom line. Every strategy has a ripple effect through the organization – from the finance function to tax implications and technology requirements.”

Additionally, many CEOs are shifting their organizations’ focus to the social component of their environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs. CEOs recognize that achieving meaningful progress on diversity, equity and inclusion is an imperative.

The pandemic has altered customer expectations for the long term and CEOs are focused on sharply accelerating their efforts to create a seamless digital customer experience. Moving quickly in this area put their organizations years in advance of where they expected to be and many CEOs plan to continue to invest in technologies that will help bolster the customer experience.

CEOs also continue to lean into their values and purpose as they look to address the needs of their stakeholders. They are taking a range of steps to support their people and strengthen their organizations – with a big focus on employee well-being and mental health and sustaining corporate culture.

Top findings from this year’s annual pulse survey included:

  • Over 80% of CEOs are confident in the growth prospects of both their company and the U.S. domestic economy.
  • Most CEOs identified regulatory risk as the greatest threat to their organization’s growth.
  • More than half of CEOs plan to continue investing in digital communication as customer engagement will be conducted predominantly via virtual platforms.
  • Over 90% of CEOs foresee shifting their focus toward the social component of ESG programs and say that scrutiny of their organization’s diversity performance will increase.
  • Over 60% of CEOs cited employee well-being and mental health as an opportunity for increased HR attention.
  • While the pandemic continues, CEOs are leading with courage, conviction and purpose and making critical investments that will position their organizations for future growth.

The 2021 CEO Outlook Pulse Survey from KPMG asks CEOs from the world’s most influential companies to provide their three-year outlook on the economic and business landscape, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic. Download the full PDF report.

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