Cyber risks, tax policies, top concerns for Caribbean CEOs – PwC survey

Following the acceleration in digital transformation to offset the impact of novel coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the significant increase in cybersecurity incidents in 2020, cyber threats have become a major source of anxiety for Caribbean businesses.

According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) 24th Annual Global CEO Survey released yesterday, 67 per cent of chief executive officers (CEO) in the region cited cyber threats as their number one concern.

Sixty-one per cent of CEOs indicated that pandemics and health crises top the list of threats to growth prospects.

Also rising rapidly up the list of CEO concerns is the spread of misinformation (28 per cent, up from 16 per cent in 2020), which has had an impact on elections, reputation, and public health – further contributing to a decline in trust across society, the study revealed.

Fifty-seven per cent of Caribbean region CEOs believe their organisations’ tax obligations will increase as governments address rising debt, while some 82 per cent of Caribbean CEOs – compared to 65 per cent of global CEOs – believe this will lead them to reconsider cost structure.

“In 2020, tax policy uncertainty ranked outside the top ten concerns for CEOs, with only 19 per cent of CEOs concerned. This year, it has increased rapidly in importance with CEOs undoubtedly watching government debts accumulate and realising that business taxes will likely need to rise,” the study stated.

Concurrently, when asked about their spending on digital transformation, nearly half of CEOs (49 per cent) project increases of 10 per cent or more. Despite the rising level of concern CEOs are voicing about cyberattacks, this has not translated into definitive actions. Less than half of the CEOs planning for heightened digital investment are planning to boost their spending on cybersecurity and data privacy by 10 per cent or more.

A growing number of CEOs – 36 per cent globally, compared to 55 per cent in the Caribbean region – plan to use automation and technology to make their workforce more competitive, more than double the share of CEOs who said the same in 2016.

PwC Jamaica’s territory leader Leighton McKnight commenting on the results of the survey said: “Caribbean CEOs are also poised to scale up their businesses, with 63 per cent planning to pursue organic growth, 75 per cent planning to improve operational efficiencies and 59 per cent planning to launch a new product or service.

“It’s hard to overstate how much the pandemic has been a game changer for many organisations, particularly those which have had to accelerate their growth and transformation plans. For those well on their way and even others which are only now moving ahead, it will be important to stay on track and adjust for any unexpected shock in the market,” McKnight said.

PwC surveyed 5,050 CEOs in 100 countries and territories in January and February 2021, up from 3,501 respondents in last year’s survey. The global and regional figures in PwC report are based on a sub-sample of 1,779 CEOs, proportionate to country nominal gross domestic product to ensure that CEOs’ views are representative across all major regions. The Caribbean region edition includes CEOs in The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.