The CEO job is highly demanding even in relatively stable business times. But then “stable” is not a word that anyone would use to describe the last few years.
Start with the unprecedented, life-altering challenges of the pandemic. Fast-forward a year to the warp speed return to growth, fueled by rapid technology innovation and a hypercompetitive battle for talent. And now make plans for another complex pivot amid increasing economic gloom and geopolitical pressures that have business leaders mapping out a third major U-turn in three years. It’s enough to give the C-suite a collective case of whiplash.
Despite this series of once-in-a-generation challenges, though, our latest CEO survey found U.S. chief executives in a surprisingly positive frame of mind, all things considered, even as they focus on helping their teams mine new levels of resiliency to navigate what most expect will be some tough business cycles ahead.
Here’s a closer look at some of the insights from our new report, the KPMG 2022 U.S. CEO Outlook.
The big picture
A few major themes on overall business confidence emerged from our survey this year, which included feedback from 400 CEOs at large U.S. companies.
For starters, 9 in 10 of the CEOs expect a recession in the next 12 months—and just one-third think the downturn will be mild or short. But when looking out over three years, 95 percent of respondents remained confident about their companies’ growth prospects over that longer term.
Indeed, that bad news/good news dynamic resonated throughout much of this year’s survey. For example:
Percentage of CEOs who said the looming recession will hamper growth, but at the same time, 83 percent expressed confidence in the resiliency of both their company and their industry.
Anticipated they would need to cut some staff in the next six months, but then 92 percent said they expected their headcount would actually grow over the three-year period.
Despite significant economic concerns from CEOs, more than half expect annual earnings growth of at least 2.5 percent over the three-year period, and a similar number (56 percent) said they were likely to pursue an acquisition to support growth.