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Navigating the rising tide of uncertainty

Key findings from portuguese CEOs
23rd Annual Global CEO Survey

What a difference two years can make. In 2018, the 21st PwC's Global CEO Survey revealed a record level of optimism regarding global economic growth expectations. This year as CEOs look into 2020 we are witnessing a record level of pessimism, both globally and in Portugal. For the first time, more than half of the CEOs (53% global and 56% in Portugal) believe that the GDP growth rates should fall. This greater caution resulted in less confidence by the CEOs in their own companies' growth prospects. Only 27% of the CEO are now "very confident" (20% in Portugal) regarding their revenue growth prospects for 2020, a level not seen since 2009.

So what is affecting the future vision of leaders? In a word, uncertainty.

Conducted in September and October of 2019, PwC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey of 1,581 chief executives in 83 territories explores the sources and manifestations of uncertainty and how CEOs are taking action and overcome the challenges.

Explore key findings


responses from Portuguese CEOs (1.581 global).


of CEOs in Portugal believe that economic growth will decrease (53% global).


of Portuguese CEOs are "very confident" (27% global) regarding the prospects for growth in their companies' revenues for 2020.


“Commercial conflicts” are now the main concern of national CEOs (34.7% global)

Robert E. Moritz, Chairman of the PwC Network, previews the firm’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey

CEOs’ prospects for growth in 2020

Bob Moritz, Chairman of the PwC Network, previews the firm’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey with a focus on rising chief executive pessimism and uncertainty heading into 2020.

Duration: 00:01:35

View transcript

Key fidings

  • No matter where CEOs look or from where they are looking, the path forward is fraught with uncertainty. And uncertainty weighs on growth.
  • In the past two years, the percentage of CEOs who believe global GDP growth will decline has increased tenfold (from 3% to 56% in Portugal and from 5% to 53% globally). And in almost every region, they show significantly diminished confidence in their own organisation’s 12-months or 3 years revenue growth prospects.
  • “Commercial conflicts” (35%), “Uncertain economic growth” (35%) and “Populism” (33%) are the three main concerns of Portuguese CEOs, which differ slightly from the biggest concerns at a global level (“Over-regulation” (36%), “Trade conflicts” (35%) and “Uncertain economic growth” (34%). The uncertainty of all these fronts clouds CEOs’ outlook on the road ahead.

  • The internet — the great global connector and democratiser of information — is now confronting the unintended and dangerous consequences of its promise.

  • With no effective global framework in place that can govern practices or control attacks on digital technology, a majority of CEOs surveyed foresee increasing legislation around online content, data privacy and dominant tech platforms. As a result, it is likely that the internet will become more fractured. The backlash against the internet’s dominant model of one global, all-encompassing and all-knowing platform is an expected development.

  •  If the global economy is to realise the full promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a greater level of coordination on these issues will be necessary.

To upskill or not to upskill is no longer the question

  • There are correlations among the current upskilling progress, economic optimism and revenue confidence.
  • CEOs who have embraced the potential of upskilling are realising the rewards, such as a stronger corporate culture, greater innovation and higher workforce productivity.
  • Those furthest in the upskilling journey cite employee retention as the primary challenge, whereas those just beginning the process find motivation and lack of resources to be the biggest obstacles.
  • One reality is clear: increases in automation, changes in demographics and new regulations will make it much harder for organisations to attract and retain the skilled talent they need to keep pace with the speed of technological change.
  • They will have to grow their own future workforce.

An opportunity cloaked in crisis

  • The tide has turned on climate change. Organisations worldwide are starting to recognise its risks and even its potential opportunities.
  • Compared with ten years ago, CEOs today are far more likely to see the benefits of going ‘green,’ such as reputational advantage, new product and service opportunities, and government or financial incentives.
  • 83% of CEOs in Portugal believe that their Stakeholders have high expectations regarding their approach to climate change, slightly higher than Western Europe (82%) and global values (78%)

“According to our global study, there are several factors that inspire uncertainty, namely structural, economic or technological. CEOs now have additional challenges and must know how to deal with this uncertainty, ensuring that their teams are prepared for the upcoming years.”

António Brochado CorreiaTerritory Senior Partner, PwC Portugal

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António Brochado Correia

Territory Senior Partner, PwC Portugal

Tel: +351 213 599 405

Pedro Palha

Marketing & Business Development, Senior Manager, PwC Portugal

Tel: +351 213 599 651

João Rui Baptista

Knowledge & Research, Senior Manager, PwC Portugal

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