What Canadian CEOs are most worried about right now

A global survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers finds Canada’s CEOs preoccupied with cost-cutting and data security

CEO looking out the window thoughtfully

(Ezra Bailey/Getty)

The chief executives of Canadian companies aren’t yet in panic mode, but the stresses of a terrible dollar, tanking oil and a tepid economy are making them more pessimistic than normal. According to a recent survey of 49 Canadian CEOs by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, 31% believe the global economy will become weaker in 2016. When asked the same question last year, only 9% of respondents agreed.

Their growing pessimism squares with the experience of CEOs everywhere; only 27% of the 1,409 chief executives around the world interviewed by PwC said they were confident that global economic conditions would improve. The survey—officially titled the 19th Annual Global CEO Survey—was completed during the fourth quarter of 2015.

While the sample of Canadian CEOs surveyed by PwC is small, their responses shed some light on what else is on the mind of our country’s top executives. Among the findings:

  •  76% of Canadian respondents say they will implement “cost-cutting measures” this year; that’s 68% higher than their international peers.
  • 80% are concerned about their tax burden, up from 68% in the 2015 survey. Many are also concerned about Canada’s looming debt burden, and the implications of a sluggish economy paired with falling tax revenues.
  • A whopping 92% of Canadian respondents agree that “business success in the 21st century will be defined by more than financial profit.” They’ve observed that more of their clients expect them to be good corporate citizens and do more to tackle important issues—yet those clients are reticent to absorb extra costs for it.
  • Perhaps in response to the above point, 80% of respondents are using new, non-financial metrics to report the value they’ve generated to their stakeholders.
  • The overwhelming majority of respondents (90%) said they made significant changes to their branding and marketing strategies in 2015.
  • Recruitment and talent retention are becoming more dynamic. Some 65% of respondents understand that top talent prefers to work for organizations with social values which are aligned to their own. (A related challenge they’re met with is accommodating “a new generation of digital natives” who are getting ready to move into positions of power.)
  • 61% of respondents say that cyber security is the biggest potential business threat to their organization’s growth prospects, topping availability of key skills (cited by 49% of respondents), volatile commodity prices (43%) and consumer spending behaviours (43%).