Strategy & execution: Why it matters and why we’re so proud of it

Dennis Nally Jan15Author: Dennis Nally, Chairman, PwC International Ltd.

How often have you recently looked at your business, your customers and your competitors and found yourself questioning the types of services and products you’re offering? Maybe you’ve even started to question the type of business you’re currently in?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. In turbulent times, driven by increasing digital adaptation and disruption, your customers don’t act as they did a generation ago. And your competitors are likely to be upstart start-ups or new arrivals from a different industry sector. The smartest companies are the ones that are keen to challenge in-built complacency and quick to adapt to take advantage of these new opportunities.

Indeed, in our most recent CEO Survey, CEOs cited new competitors and changing customer behaviour in the top-three trends likely to disrupt their business over the next five years.


18th Annual Global CEO Survey - disruptors

Strategy is central to this ability to adapt and grow. That’s why, one year after PwC’s acquisition of Booz & Company and the formation of Strategy&, we’re so excited about what we can now offer in terms of delivering strategy through execution - helping our clients build the capabilities they need to grow, not just advising them.

We now have a strategy group of more than 5,000 people, putting us in line with the top strategy houses globally. So why are we putting so much stock in the need for smart strategy combined with execution? CEOs tell us that’s what they need.

In today’s business environment, CEOs of global companies lead for five years on average. A major reorganisation is likely to happen only once during that leader’s term and that puts great pressure on the CEO to get it right. Yet 60% of 4,000 top executives say they have no confidence in their strategy, according to research conducted by Strategy&.

Those companies that lack clear direction in their strategic goals, or find themselves spread too thinly because they chase growth on too many fronts, are the ones that are likely to fail. Often, as my colleagues Cesare Mainardi and Paul Leinwand explain in the enlightening video below, CEOs have so many strategies – be it growth, M&A, cost or portfolio management – that they end up undermining each other. By doing so they lose their focus when they should really be asking and solving one critical question: Who do we want to be?



Even when CEOs have a strategy they feel confident about, many doubt that they have the resources and capabilities to carry it through effectively. Still, today, in our always-connected business world, strategy and executive teams often don’t talk to each other, or they operate in an environment of mistrust and misunderstanding. In these situations even the best conceived strategy will quickly fall apart, creating confusion in the company and leaving it vulnerable to competitors who are often leaner and more focused.

That’s why we believe the future of successful companies will combine practical and winning strategy with the capabilities to execute that thinking. And that’s why we’re proud to have Strategy& as part of PwC – so we can put strategy to work and help companies around the globe unlock lasting growth.



Dennis Nally leads the global network of PwC firms. He has extensive experience serving large multinational clients in a variety of industries, principally focusing on technology and life sciences. Dennis is also a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on issues affecting the professional services profession and the global capital markets. Read Dennis Nally's full biography.


Can we trust our food this World Health Day?

Craig ArmitageAuthor: Craig Armitage, Global Food Supply and Integrity Services Leader

You may have thought that food trust wasn’t your issue or it only affects other people in faraway countries when you heard about the World Health Organisation’s campaign to improve food safety this year.

But the reality is food supply is under attack as globalisation and increasingly complex supply chains create food trust risks on an industrial scale. And it’s this risk that’s threatening the very food on your plate.

That’s why we’re marking World Health Day today by announcing our global food supply and integrity services business to help food companies and governments with all of this. Made in New Zealand and with the rest of the world, we ultimately believe we can help restore trust in the world’s food.

Our view is we need to prepare for more of the same food challenges as basic fundamentals of trade and supply are transformed and megatrends, such as booming population growth and climate change, amplify their impacts on our businesses and everyday lives through the food we produce, sell and eat.

And it’s not just small or unsophisticated organisations feeling vulnerable to attack. A glimpse of recent headlines confirms an increasing picture of risk affecting the most reputable companies and economies.

The ‘nuts-for-spices’ scandal, for example, where peanut and almond shells were allegedly substituted for cumin seeds, saw dozens of products pulled from supermarket shelves in the US and Europe. In Australia, frozen berry products were recalled due to hepatitis A contamination fears. And ‘eco-terrorists’ recently tried to blackmail the New Zealand Government and dairy industry with a threat to poison infant milk formula.

Today, problems can turn up in more products, more quickly than ever before, causing food safety scandals that threaten large numbers of people. With the World Health Organisation estimating unsafe food contributes to the deaths of two million people every year, it’s clear we need a new approach to reducing this risk.

It’s a public health concern, a significant political issue and a substantial risk for food companies and governments that get it wrong. So what can be done to improve trust in our food?

As consumers, we now want to know more about the food we’re buying and feeding to our families. In response to this concern, we’re seeing governments enhancing their regulatory controls, supplemented by increased oversight and sanctions. But food companies, who naturally take safety and quality issues very seriously, know complying with regulatory change is just the first step: winning customers’ trust requires more.

We believe a more strategic and innovative approach is needed to help companies transform their approach and have more control and visibility over their supply chains. In our experience, leading companies are investing in technological solutions to improve traceability and recall management, focusing on food safety culture and going well beyond compliance to improve standards and reduce risk.

For these problems are only set to worsen if we don’t do more to collectively protect ourselves and build resilience of global food supply. Just last week I was in Taiwan when police raided a company passing off industrial chemicals as a food ingredient for adding to seasoning and spice mixes. This is the reality we face!

Building trust in food is a shared responsibility that needs to be tackled by industry and governments in partnership with us all as consumers. It’s time to raise awareness of these issues and confront them head on.

For more information, see our brochure for an overview of these issues and our paper on food trust and regulatory change

Craig leads our Food Supply and Integrity Services for PwC globally, focusing on food security, safety, quality and recall management services to help companies and governments give greater trust in their food.


Finding different ways of thinking and working

Nora-wuAuthor: Nora Wu, PwC Vice Chairwoman and Global Human Capital Leader

Business leaders today recognise that a diverse and inclusive workforce is a critical success factor for growth, according to PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey. It’s essential for nurturing creativity, fostering innovation and informing business strategies, particularly in this era of digital disruption. In this year’s survey, more than 80% of CEOs whose organisations have a diversity and inclusiveness strategy say it’s contributed to better business performance.

So what does this mean for business today, and what can we do about it going forward? We take a look at why diversity is so important, and how we can focus on building more diverse and inclusive workforces in future.  

Making a difference to the bottom line
According to the survey findings, nine out of 10 CEOs say that they’ve been able to attract talent through their diversity strategy – and this is leading to concrete benefits for the business and a stronger brand reputation. As high as 85% of CEOs see a clear link between diversity and the bottom line.  

PwC's 18th Annual Global CEO Survey - Fig E
Today, business leaders believe that when their people are capable of thinking and working differently, they’re able to offer better solutions, services and products to their customers and clients, bringing fresh ideas and new processes that are crucial to compete in today’s marketplace.

Attracting top talent and winning new markets is becoming a key differentiator for organisations – and diversity plays an important role in achieving this differentiation. It’s evident that CEOs are increasingly seeing diversity and inclusiveness as one of their top business priorities, with three quarters of CEOs having a diversity strategy or plans to adopt one.

According to Dr Vishal Sikka, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Infosys, “Great products and solutions are created when they are a synthesis of lots of different kinds of perspectives, and when we’re diverse.”

Denise Ramos, Chief Executive Officer and President of ITT Corporation, says: “We want people who have differing ideas, differing experiences, differing opinions because we need to solve our customers’ problems. The only way you could do that in a world-class way is to bring a variety of people together and utilise their collective know-how. Diversity and inclusion will make us that much more competitive in the work place.”

Diversifying diversity
CEOs are starting to look beyond the more common dimensions of gender and race in order to build diverse teams. For example, elements such as knowledge, skills and experience, attitude to career and progression, age and disability are now being taken in consideration when building diversity strategies.  


PwC's 18th Annual Global CEO Survey - Fig 18
Although CEOs with active, formal talent strategies say they’re addressing the more ‘conventional’ dimensions of diversity – as pointed out by PwC Vice Chairman Mitch Cohen in his recent blog – it’s encouraging to see that CEOs are starting to embrace diversity in its wider sense. They’re recognising the importance of ‘diversifying’ diversity, and starting to look more widely across channels, geographies, industries and demographic segments in search of the right talent for their organisations.

Continuing to focus on gender
When it comes to the more conventional dimensions of diversity – such as gender diversity – it’s clear that organisations still face challenges.

For example, attracting and retaining female ‘millennials’. Born between 1980 and 1995, female millennials make up a large part of the current and future talent pool, and are entering the workforce in bigger numbers than any of their previous generations. In PwC's new study, The female millennial, 85% of female millennials interviewed said that a potential employer’s policy on diversity, equality and workforce inclusion was important to them. But their expectations are not always met: 71% felt that while organisations talk about diversity, opportunities are not truly equal.

It’s so important for us to be committed to supporting the growing number of female leaders across the business community. I’ve been proud to be part of PwC’s annual Aspire to Lead initiative, our women’s leadership series which focuses on how female students can move from campus to career. It’s important for all organisations to be making gender diversity a reality for the young women in their workforce.

There’s still progress to be made
According to our CEO Survey, 17% of CEOs say their organisations don’t have a strategy to promote diversity and inclusiveness, while 13% say they have plans to adopt one.   

PwC's 18th Annual Global CEO Survey - diversity
It’ll be important for these organisations to embrace diversity by driving efforts to both tackle enhanced leadership diversity  and drive change among their employees . To get this right, organisations need to first understand better how to attract, develop, engage and retain an increasingly diverse workforce.

Annika Falkengren of SEB, one of four female CEOs among Sweden’s top 100 companies, says: “What gets measured gets done – so we have to put in targets, follow up on them and measure its progress.”

If organisations can remain focused on keeping diversity and inclusion at the top of their priority list, they’re already off to a good start.

Nora Wu currently leads the firm’s global people strategy. Prior to this role, Nora was the PwC China Senior Partner for the Shanghai office, Central China Markets Leader and Asia Pacific Human Capital Leader. Find out more


Is India ready for a marketplace without boundaries?

Bharti-gupta-ramolaAuthor: Bharti Gupta Ramola, Markets Leader, PwC India

The India summary of our 18th Annual Global CEO Survey has thrown up some interesting and surprising results. CEOs in India were the most positive about their business growth prospects and also the most bullish about prospects for the global economy, when compared to their global peers. A whopping 84% of CEOs in India said there were more opportunities today than there were three years ago, against 41% who saw more threats. They also seemed less bothered about potential industry disruptions coming their way in the next few years.

India CEOs confidence
While the positive sentiment about business growth is understandable, the bullishness about the global economy raises a question. Are CEOs in India super excited because of some positive developments in the global economy and a pro-reform government in India? Or are they locally focused and isolated and not so connected with the real issues confronting the global economy? Similarly, the gap between the opportunity and threat perception and relatively low concern about disruptions raises the question about the preparedness of CEOs in India. However, at least one CEO we spoke with about these results thought that perhaps CEOs in India are seeing disruptions as opportunities rather than concerns.

No doubt India is on an upswing, with aspirational double-digit growth that the business community can’t wait to see. PwC's new report, The World in 2050: Will the shift in global economic power continue? projects that India will be the second-largest economy in 2050 in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). However, there are two prerequisites for this: firstly, structural and institutional reforms and secondly, large-scale investments. There’s also the big question of whether India has, or can build, the capabilities needed to compete in an increasingly borderless market.

In the survey, CEOs in India saw inadequate basic infrastructure and bribery and corruption as the top threats to business growth, and availability of key skills was a key common concern shared with their global peers.

Global CEOs have reinstated their faith in India, which ranked sixth this year in terms of the most important markets for CEOs’ overseas growth prospects - the same as last year. With the IMF and World Bank also showing confidence in India, all eyes are on government action to improve the environment for doing business in the country. Yet, as our report, The Future of India: the Winning Leap, points out, corporations in India have much to do to build the capabilities needed to create innovative solutions that address the needs of India’s growing market in a resource-efficient way. Only then can India progress on an unprecedented growth trajectory and take that winning leap.        



Bharti Gupta Ramola is the Markets Leader for PwC India and a member of the India Leadership Team. Prior to her current role, she was the Deals Leader for PwC India. Bharti has also led the Infrastructure, Government & Utilities & Energy Sector Advisory for PwC India and was a member of PwC's Global Diversity and Inclusion Council. In her personal capacity, Bharti serves on the boards of BASIX and Srijan, two of India’s leading organisations promoting livelihood development.  She has been Chair of the Board of PRADAN.


To succeed in China’s “new normal”, you’ve got to have talent.

Dennis Nally Jan15 Author: Dennis Nally, Chairman, PwC International Ltd.

After a decade of plain sailing for China’s economy, CEOs have recently had to navigate a decidedly more complicated business landscape. 

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that, in our Annual Global CEO Survey this year, the confidence of China’s CEOs in their business growth prospects fell below the global average for the first time in its 18-year history. In fact, nearly 60% of them believe there are more threats to the growth of their company today than there were three years ago. This erosion of confidence in China’s economy is shared by global CEOs: for the first time in five years, the US has overtaken China as the most important market for overseas growth.

PwC's 18th Annual Global CEO Survey - Fig 3

The challenge for China’s business leaders is to establish a platform for success and growth in an economic climate that could well be the “new normal”. The good news for China’s CEOs is that a strong majority (71%) believe there are more growth opportunities for their company today than there were three years ago. Also, more than half are planning to increase headcount in the next 12 months.

To make sure growth is sustainable in a global economy being transformed by digital innovation, new business models and changing consumer behaviour, companies will have to embrace new technology and be open to new ways of collaborating - both with traditional business allies and also with unconventional partners, be it academia, or even consumers.

In many ways, to succeed in this new economy requires a new digitally inventive and flexible mindset. That’s why we believe nurturing and holding onto a diverse mix of talent is one of the most important leadership qualities a CEO can command nowadays.

In this year’s CEO Survey, nine out of 10 CEOs in China said they were concerned about the availability of key skills. On the surface, the future looks bright. After all, by 2020, 40% of Chinese 18 to 22-year-olds will have a college education. The question CEOs need to ask is, “Do I have a corporate strategy and culture that can bring the best out of and retain the Millennial generation?"

Half the China CEOs we interviewed said they already had a strategy in place to promote diversity and inclusiveness - and an overwhelming majority agreed that having such a strategy will help attract new talent to the business.

In the global, increasingly mobile and technology-driven 21st century economy, you’ve got to have talent.

Read more in the newly released China summary of PwC's 18th Annual Global CEO Survey.



Dennis Nally leads the global network of PwC firms. He has extensive experience serving large multinational clients in a variety of industries, principally focusing on technology and life sciences. Dennis is also a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on issues affecting the professional services profession and the global capital markets. Read Dennis Nally's full biography.


Five traits that might indicate you’re a resilience builder

Dennis-chesleyAuthor: Dennis Chesley, Global Risk Consulting Leader

More risk or more opportunity, what do you see in the near future? When we asked 1,322 CEOs this question as part of PwC’s 18th  Annual Global CEO Survey this year, the response showed that business leaders are almost evenly split. 59% see greater risk this year than they did three years ago, while 61% of CEOs believe there are more opportunities now than there were three years ago.




Of course, the percentages don’t add up to 100%, and that’s because there’s a unique group of CEOs in the middle - thirty percent - who believe that there are both more opportunities and threats. We were intrigued by this group of 30%. How do they prepare their organisations and strategies for both opportunities and threats? So we dug deeper into the data. What we found was an optimistic group of business leaders who appear to be actively seeking positive disruption. We call them ‘resilience builders’ because their beliefs suggest their organisations are equipped to act on emerging opportunities – even in the most daunting circumstances.

Resilience is an organisation’s capacity to anticipate and react to change, not only to survive, but also to evolve and seize advantage. To survive and evolve today, companies need do more than simply innovate incrementally or tweak their balance sheets; they need to prepare their entire organisations to take advantage of big shifts. And this is what resilience builders seem to understand too, so as to be able to act on emerging opportunities before competitors.

We know that resilience builders are more likely to: 

  1. Anticipate competition from outside of their industry: 66% of resilience builders versus a global average 56%.
  2. Enter a new industry themselves: 60% of resilience builders versus a global average 54% say that they have entered, or considered entering, a new industry in the past three years. 
  3. See a range of trends as being more disruptive to their industries than the global average, including  changes in distributions channels, in industry regulations, in customer behaviours, and in core technologies, as well as increasing competition.
  4. Pay attention to societal concerns, such as unemployment (54% vs global average 34%) and social instability (68% vs 61% global average).
  5. Collaborate with non-traditional partners. 52% versus a global average of 44% have or are considering collaborating with start-ups, for example.

Resilience builders have a heightened sense of risk, but this risk mindset isn’t a hindrance; rather, it’s an indication of how they intend to grow. As they plan for growth, they’ve changed their risk management functions not only to mitigate value destruction, but also drive value creation.

What do you think -  sound like you? Are you actively fostering the critical business capability of resilience within your organisation? Do you know where to start? Contact me if you'd like to investigate further, and take a look at the full article and infographic on Resilience Builders here.



Dennis Chesley is a Principal in PwC's Advisory practice with experience across a broad range of public and private entities within global operations. Dennis is the Global Leader for Risk Consulting Services and a frequent speaker and author on topics related to strategy, risk, compliance and control. Read more



Keeping talent diversity in mind

Mitch Cohen PwC Author: Mitch Cohen, Vice Chairman, PwC US

CEOs today are well aware that a diversity of talent is critical for competitiveness, according to PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey.  81% of survey participants say their organisations are now looking for a much broader range of skills than in the past. 78% say their business always uses multiple channels to recruit, while 71% actively search for talent in different geographies, industries, and demographic segments. Adapting talent is also considered a must: 81% of respondents say that their business always looks to equip employees with new skills. Perhaps most importantly, of the CEOs whose companies have a formal diversity and inclusiveness strategy, 85% think it’s improved the bottom line.

CEO-Survey-Web_Diversity-SOCIAL-IMAGE 3

Digging deeper

These numbers are, on the face of it, pretty compelling. But if we dig a little deeper, we can see something else going on.  The large majority of CEOs with formal talent strategies already in place - more than 90% - said they’re addressing dimensions that are, in one way or another, observable: gender, knowledge/skills/experience, ethnicity/nationality, age, disability, and religion.

By contrast, only a small number are addressing dimensions that are unobservable. Less than 6% said their diversity and inclusiveness strategy specifically addresses people who have different personal qualities/mindsets (including adaptability).  


PwC's 18th Annual Global CEO Survey - Fig 18
However you look at it, very few CEOs are looking to enhance dimensions of diversity that fall outside conventional modes. I find this especially intriguing in light of the research John Sviokla and I conducted on 120 self-made billionaires over the past couple of years.

Understanding the ‘Producer’ mindset

According to our analysis, extreme entrepreneurs take an approach to building a business that’s quite different from what you typically see nowadays. As we explain in our new book, The Self-Made Billionaire Effect, they exhibit what we call the ‘Producer’ mindset, as opposed to the ‘Performer’ mindset that’s usually encouraged and promoted in most companies.

Specifically, Producers display five habits of mind - empathetic imagination, patient urgency, inventive execution, a relative view of risk, and a partnership approach to leadership. Time and time again, these entrepreneurs have drawn on these habits of mind to create blockbuster offerings, often in highly competitive industries. Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Sara Blakely of Spanx, and Joe Mansueto of Morningstar are just three examples.

Making mindset top of mind

Diversifying the mindset of your talent pool in this way begins with identifying Producers already in your organisation, as well as bringing them in from the outside through catalyst hires, partnerships, and M&A.  At PwC, we’ve had a lot of success with catalyst hires - conducting interviews with the express purpose of identifying individuals who exhibit those five habits of mind.

Raising the number of Producers in your organisation is only the first step. It’s also important to determine which tasks require a Producer mindset and deploy your Producers accordingly.  In some cases, the project will require a leadership partnership - not only a Producer, but a Performer with complementary skills.

Evaluations of a Producer’s performance should also be conducted with this mindset in mind. The success of the project is only one consideration. To what degree did the individual exhibit empathetic imagination and inventive execution?  What attitude was displayed to risk?  If the project failed, how did he or she respond?

We’re certainly not suggesting that companies in pursuit of massive value creation should stop looking for people from different backgrounds or experience: there’s little doubt that these dimensions bring diversity of thought to an organisation. But they’re no longer sufficient. Companies need to expand their notion of diversity and consider a person’s mindset.

As the extreme success of self-made billionaires would suggest, a person’s mindset is an important consideration for companies looking to disrupt their industries. In today’s constantly shifting business landscape, it’s something no company can afford to ignore.


During his 34 years at the firm, Mitch has served a number of Fortune 500 clients; he's also held various leadership roles, helping to guide the firm's strategy as well as its initiatives around innovation and corporate responsibility. Mitch serves on the Advisory Board for Penn State's Smeal College of Business. He also serves on the Advisory Board of DonorsChoose. 


Friend, enemy or frenemy? Welcome to the era of agile collaboration

Chris_LedererAuthor: Chris Lederer, Principal, PwC US

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, the entertainment and media CEOs I speak to increasingly see collaboration as a route to innovation. And they aren’t alone: in PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, 68% of respondents in entertainment and media said they plan to enter a new strategic alliance this year, more than virtually any other industry group.

We examine the specific drivers and dynamics of collaboration in the entertainment and media sector in this video blog and article. But in my view, the drive to create value through alliances and partnerships is equally strong in other industries, with daily reports of tie-ups and alliances within and across an infinite array of sectors and countries. In fact, 51% of CEOs interviewed in this year’s CEO Survey said they plan to enter into new strategic alliances or joint ventures over the next 12 months, up from 44% last year.

Two waves of collaboration

As well as expanding in number and reach, I also see collaboration evolving in nature and rationale. The first wave of collaboration focused on using digital platforms to drive down cost, mainly by consolidating and optimising supply chains. Some of these deals saw incumbents offer their core competency as a basis for collaboration with other segments. Others involved new entrants, in areas like digitisation, coming in and collaborating from outside. In each case, the core aim was to lower costs.

The second wave has seen collaboration move onto the offensive, with companies seeking out a variety of partners to generate new offerings, create previously untested business models and drive higher revenues. Key focus areas in this wave – which is still under way – include big data analytics. And one of its impacts has been to accelerate companies’ expansion across the traditional segment boundaries and into each other’s core markets.

Complementary or co-opetition?

This effect is underlined by the fact that the first – cost-focused – wave generally involved partners with complementary capabilities or presences in different markets. But, as the second wave builds, co-opetition in the same sector – or collaboration with ‘frenemies’– is increasingly evident. In this year’s CEO Survey, more than half of CEOs said they’re partnering, or have considered partnering, with business networks, firms from other industries, academia and even competitors.

PwC's 18th Annual Global CEO Survey partnering image

Common co-opetitive models include minority investments, which can open up strategic options on both sides at lower risk than a full merger. Yet co-opetition also faces barriers, including competition regulation. For example, in early 2014 the US Justice Department asked the Federal Communications Commission to impose tougher regulations on collaborations between local television stations, on the basis they may be circumventing restrictions on ownership.

The need for agility and honesty

Whatever the nature of a collaboration,  sometimes the excitement of forging the relationship can make it all too easy to overlook the downside if things don’t work out. So how can collaborations be future-proofed? For me, the key is to create a structure that builds in agility from the start, by allowing the strategy and operation of the partnership to flex in response to economic and technological shifts.

Crucially, this level of agility needs each partner to have a clear and honest understanding of why it’s entering the relationship in the first place. The goal may simply be to join capabilities to generate new revenues. Or it may be more complex – such as a company collaborating with a major player in an adjacent sector to stop it entering its own core market. It may even be a way of securing exclusive access to an industry-leading capability before competitors do so.  

Opening options up – not shutting them down

Whatever the final goal, the collaborative structure needs to be flexible. That means leaving strategic options open rather that closing them off – whether the end-game be one partner buying out the other, or both partners spinning the venture off, bringing in more partners, or even shutting it down.

Collaborations are fundamentally a response to accelerating change, often enabling a business to innovate more quickly and effectively. It makes sense that an ability to change at pace – and to embrace and leverage new ideas – will remain key to successful partnerships in any sector, no matter who they’re with. In today’s connected environment, it’s no coincidence that these are also the keys to the success of any business venture.


Chris Lederer leads the PwC US Strategy practice within the Entertainment, Media and Communications industries and has over 20 years of experience as a strategic consultant and senior operating executive. He's helped senior corporate and private equity clients to create and execute a broad range of successful business strategies:  from global organic growth programmes and programmatic acquisition efforts to turnarounds and restructurings. Find out more



International Women’s Day: celebrating a new era of female talent

Dennis Nally Jan15 Author: Dennis Nally, Chairman, PwC International Ltd.

On Sunday 8 March, International Women’s Day (IWD) will be celebrated worldwide. IWD takes place annually and, for 2015, will revolve around the theme, Make It Happen: Encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women.

Research and media are currently focused on the lack of women in leadership and on corporate boards. But, if we want to achieve sustainable change, we must shift the discussion and commit to two parallel efforts: tackling enhanced leadership diversity along with driving change in the workforce.

With female millennials making up an ever larger part of the global talent pool, diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies must account for this talent population. This week, we launched The female millennial: A new era of female talent. This report shares the findings of a global survey conducted with over 8,700 millennial women in 75 countries.  

PwC - The female millennial (1)Our research confirms that female millennials (women born between 1980 and 1995) are entering the workforce in much higher numbers than any of their previous generations. They’re a highly educated and much more financially empowered generation: 86% of female millennials are part of a dual-career couple, and 66% of millennial women who are part of a dual-career couple, earn equal to, or more than, their partner or spouse.

But this isn’t the only thing that’s changed. These women also enter the workforce with a different career mindset. They’re more career-confident and ambitious than previous generations.  They rank opportunities for career progression as the most attractive employer trait, and are most likely to have left a former employer due to a lack of such opportunities.

This year, the results of PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey reveal that D&I is high on the talent agendas of organisations worldwide, with 64% of CEOs stating they have a formal D&I strategy in place, and 13% planning to adopt one over the next 12 months. Furthermore, 90% of CEOs that have a formal D&I strategy in place say it’s enhanced their ability to attract talent, while 85% say it’s enhanced business performance.

Meanwhile, our millennial research tells us that 71% of female millennials (up 17% since we last asked millennials this question in 2011) believe that, while organisations talk about diversity, they don’t feel opportunities are really equal for all. Saying the right things on the topic of gender diversity will no longer suffice; female millennials want to see visible action from their employers.

CEOs need to move beyond soft D&I programmes and commit to inclusive talent and advancement strategies that demonstrate visible results - and that tap into the confidence and ambition of the female millennial.

PwC - The female millennial (2)
At PwC, as we make sure our diversity initiatives are addressed as a core business priority throughout our network of firms, these are some of the efforts I’m championing:

  • D&I on the leadership agenda: I’ve appointed a Global D&I Leader, who reports directly to me.  In addition, D&I updates are a regular feature on the agendas of our leadership meetings. 
  • Leadership accountability for diversity and an inclusive culture: We’re looking at a number of measures (quantitative and qualitative) to make sure our firms are making tangible progress.
  • Driving awareness: At every opportunity I talk about how diversity is critical to the sustainability of our business and sponsor efforts to support that message. For example, during our latest annual Global Diversity Week campaign, we focused on building our people’s awareness of the business case for diversity and provided them with tools to help them become even more inclusive PwC professionals.
  • Engaging men on the topic of gender diversity: The achievement of gender equality requires an inclusive approach that recognises the crucial role of men as partners for women’s rights. I’m proud of our role as one of the founding partners of the UN IMPACT 10x10x10 HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality - an effort focused on engaging men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential.

Remember, when talent rises to the top, everyone wins.


Find out more at www.pwc.com/femalemillennial



Dennis Nally leads the global network of PwC firms. He has extensive experience serving large multinational clients in a variety of industries, principally focusing on technology and life sciences. Dennis is also a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on issues affecting the professional services profession and the global capital markets. Read Dennis Nally's full biography.

Digital transformation and the CEO agenda

Raymund ChaoAuthor: Raymund Chao, Asia Pacific Assurance Leader

We’re living in an era of unprecedented digital change. The type of change that’s reshaping the relationship between customers and companies, and blurring the boundaries between industry sectors.

It’s no exaggeration to say that digital technologies are upending the very business landscape we all operate in. Organisations are constantly being challenged to reinvent their operating model – and in many cases, their very business model – to survive and thrive in this rapidly-evolving digital world.

The findings from our recent 18th Annual Global CEO Survey clearly demonstrate that digital transformation is at the core of the CEO agenda. For some CEOs, it’s even making them question the very business they’re in.

Need a new… digitally-aware CEO

We all know that technology is no longer the back office function it once was. The whole raft of new C-suite job titles like ‘Chief Data Officer’ and ‘Head of Digital’ testifies to that. In fact, I’d argue that digital transformation is now firmly part of every board member’s job description, and for no-one more so than the CEO him- or herself.

No less than 86% of the CEOs we interviewed said that it was important that they, as the CEO, champion the use of digital technologies to help their organisations get the most out of those technologies. And the same percentage believes that a clear vision of how digital technologies can help achieve competitive advantage is another key to success.


PwC's 18th CEO Survey - Figure 12


There’s no doubt that digital technologies are now getting a lot of attention in the boardroom. The majority of the CEOs we spoke to think that digital technologies are creating value right across the organisation, from data and data analytics through customer experience to innovation capacity.


PwC's 18th CEO Survey - Figure 11

AsiaPac CEOs lead the way

As the PwC Assurance Leader for Asia Pacific, I was pleased to see that AsiaPac CEOs are more ‘bullish’ on technology than their global peers. Data mining and analysis tops the AsiaPac CEO’s digital agenda (83% vs 80% of global CEOs). And CEOs in AsiaPac also seem ahead of their global peers when it comes to embracing ‘newer’ digital technologies and appreciating their strategic importance: socially-enabled business processes (65% vs 61% of global CEOs), the Internet of Things (67% vs 65%) and cloud computing (64% vs 60%).

Digital transformation will roll on…

It’s clear that we’re only part-way through this era of digital transformation. One of the AsiaPac CEOs we spoke to as part of the CEO survey, Atsushi Saito (Director & Representative Executive Officer, Group CEO of Japan Exchange Group, Inc.) sums it up nicely: “No one can stop this progress in technology. [The] know-how is in harnessing this technology and deploying it in a controlled manner.”

So, if there’s one question I’d ask every CEO I meet, it’s this: “In what ways does your business and operating model need to change to fulfil evolving customer needs – and what are you doing to put digital transformation at the heart of that change?”



Raymund Chao is PwC’s Assurance Leader in Asia Pacific. He's also one of the core members of PwC’s Global Assurance Executive Team, which determines the strategy and direction for the network's Assurance business on a global basis. Read more