How worried should we be about China?

By John Hawksworth, Chief Economist, PwC UK              John Hawksworth                                                  

The recent slowdown in the Chinese economy and the sharp falls in its stock market over the summer have sent shock waves rippling across global markets, and reignited fears of another downward leg to the global financial crisis. But how bad are things really? And what does it mean for other economies around the world?

China has serious challenges to address

The Chinese economy clearly faces some real problems as discussed in our latest Global Economy Watch report. Total private credit has risen to around 140% of GDP, one of the highest in the world and well above what you’d expect to see based on average income levels (see Figure 1). Added to high levels of debt in local government and some state enterprises, this is a problem that will take some years to resolve as the Chinese authorities seek to ease debt levels down to more sustainable levels without triggering a hard landing for the economy as a whole.

Figure 1: Chinese domestic credit level one of the highest in the world relative to GDP

Source: PwC analysis using IMF and World Bank data

The country is also grappling with a debt-fuelled property investment bubble that has burst, as I talked about in a blog back in January. Having lost faith in property, some Chinese investors seemed to have moved into equities, but that bubble has also now burst, as we’d seen with the stock market falls over the past few months. Most forecasters still expect a slowdown rather than a hard landing in Chinese GDP growth, and that’s our view too - but there are clearly more downside than upside risks as the IMF has said.

Chinese export growth was also hit by a real appreciation of the yuan while it was linked to the dollar (which has been very strong), making Chinese goods less competitive. This has been reinforced by relatively high Chinese wage growth in recent years.  The recent policy of allowing the yuan to fall against the dollar is aimed in part at restoring some of this lost competitiveness, as well as making the yuan more responsive to market forces. The yuan may well have further to fall against the dollar.

Now let’s take a look at the impact of China’s slowdown on the rest of the world.

Not so bad for Europe and the US…

One impact of the slowdown in China has been to lower oil prices (and other commodity prices as discussed further below). This is good news for net oil importers like the Eurozone, where a gradual recovery has been underway this year, helped also by QE by the European Central Bank. We therefore expect a gradual return to growth for the Eurozone, but at a relatively modest rate of around 1-1.5% per annum, especially with the effect of a Chinese slowdown on German exports. UK growth should be stronger at around 2.5%.

On the US front, the latest evidence suggests that growth is continuing, although at a more moderate pace than hoped for at the start of the year - around 2.5% rather than over 3%. Given the problems in China, the Fed seems likely to hold off raising interest rates until at least December, but a gradual rise is still likely to start then or early 2016. An eventual rise in US rates is widely anticipated by the markets and has been another factor in weakening some emerging market currencies relative to the dollar this year.

… but emerging markets dependent on commodity exports are suffering …

Slower growth in China has cut its demand for commodities from some emerging economies that are large net commodity exporters like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Chile, Nigeria, Colombia, Malaysia, Argentina, Indonesia and Brazil as shown in Figure 2 below. But some other emerging economies, notably India, will gain from lower commodity prices, as will China itself as a significant net importer.

Figure 2: Leading emerging economies have different exposures to ‘lower for longer’ commodity prices

Source: PwC analysis of data from IMF and UNCTAD

Slower than expected growth in Chinese demand has added to downward pressure on global oil and other non-food commodities prices. Together with supply factors (e.g. Iranian oil supplies coming back on stream as US sanctions are lifted) we think this could keep oil prices low for longer. Currencies of emerging markets that depend on oil and other commodities have fallen accordingly.

… and Asia-Pacific economies with close trading links with China will also be hit

As well as commodity producers, other economies in the Asia-Pacific region that rely on exports to China for a relatively high proportion of their GDP are also being adversely affected. This includes advanced economies like Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Australia, and emerging economies like Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

But we don’t think a rerun of the Asian crisis of 1997-98 is likely. At the time, countries like South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia were running significant trade deficits, whereas now they’re generally running trade surpluses and have built up defensive stocks of foreign exchange reserves. This is in contrast to some other emerging economies such as Brazil and South Africa that look more vulnerable due to running significant trade deficits in recent years, as well as being exposed to declines in commodity prices as noted above.

Conclusion: watch with care but don’t lose sight of longer term growth potential of emerging markets

So we think events in China are of concern and need to be watched carefully. Some other emerging markets also face serious challenges. Businesses and investors need to be selective in targeting emerging markets and be prepared to ride out some turbulent times in the short term.

But we shouldn’t lose sight of the longer term growth potential of these markets, which is still considerable as argued in our World in 2050 report earlier this year and in our Growth Markets Centre research. Emerging markets may be slowing but, as a group, their longer term growth rates are still likely to be significantly higher than in mature markets like the US and Western Europe.



John is Chief Economist for the UK and editor of the Economic Outlook publication, and many other reports and articles on macroeconomic and fiscal policy issues. He has over 20 years of experience as an economics consultant to leading public and private sector organisations, both in the UK and overseas. Read more


Strategy made simple in a digital world

Carlo photo

Author: Carlo Gagliardi, Partner, PwC UK

I’m an enthusiast. When I was young it was aeroplanes, then for years it was business strategy. Now, it’s digital. Though it would probably be more accurate to say that my second passion has morphed into my third - because these days, business strategy is digital. Or as we say in PwC, you no longer need a digital strategy, you need a business strategy for a digital age.

For companies that ‘get it’ with digital, it’s transforming not just what they do, but how they do it. Here’s a great example. In the old days, corporates spent huge amounts of time honing beautiful strategies before they went into execution mode, because that meant fewer expensive mistakes. Now, all that’s changing. Execution is taking place alongside strategy, making the process not just quicker but sharper. Doing it this way produces smarter, more market-driven ideas, which can be put in place fast. And that in turn buys you time, either to establish if you’re on the right track and make the most of it, or change tack before the competition catches up.  This is what we mean when we talk about the world being ‘in beta’.

PwC_Swiz_Zurich_R_MB_52So if you’re a CEO, what should you do? If I had one single piece of advice it would be this: think in breadth, as well as in depth. In other words, whatever challenge you face or opportunity you want to seize, do it with a team from across the organisation, not within functional silos. Challenge outdated assumptions about the disciplines.  For example, Marketing people have traditionally been frustrated with what they see as IT’s inability to deliver what they need quickly and simply. While IT professionals, forced to work with legacy systems, have tended to prioritise maintenance over innovation.  Those preconceptions need to be broken down, and a new more fluid collaboration forged in the middle. 

Digital professionals: they have the potential to build that bridge, by helping Marketing extract customer insights from social media, and ensuring IT links technology to the business strategy.  But digital isn’t the exclusive property of Digital people. You need to draw on the insights and energy of your younger ‘digital natives’, whatever their seniority, and whatever their formal job title.   And take this approach not just for the big strategic decisions, but for the day-to-day ones as well. 

I suspect that probably sounds both simple and terrifying at one and the same time. But that’s good. Because it means you get it, too.



Carlo is a partner at PwC UK, in the strategy practice based in London. He's one of the firm’s thought leaders in the areas of customer centricity and customer experience, analytics, digital transformation, innovation, business model design and operating model design. Read more


Reading for leading – can novels help develop tomorrow’s CEO’s skills?

Christopher-michaelsonAuthor:  Christopher Michaelson, Associate Professor of Ethics & Business Law, University of St. Thomas

Once upon a time, there was a young man called Victor who was encouraged by his parents to seek a greater understanding of the world through science. When his mother died, he became obsessed by the possibilities of chemistry and other sciences. He soon achieved the innovation of his life by developing a secret technique to impart life to non-living matter. He created life from death, but the result was a two metre, ghoulish creature that, in the tragic end, killed everything that Victor loved.

A modern retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein might prompt today’s technology entrepreneurs and innovators to anticipate the collateral effects of technological innovation. While seeing and shaping the future is a key competence for tomorrow’s CEO, this classic piece of literature warns about the unbalanced pursuit of a goal without regard for its unintended consequences on stakeholders. Think such controversial topics as industrialisation and the environment, big data and privacy, or genetically modified organisms and health. The point of retelling the story is not to stifle innovation, but rather to consider responsibility for its consequences beyond one’s immediate line of sight.

A recent article on BBC News, The super secret weapon of CEOs, suggests that poetry helps executives distil complex ideas related to the challenges they face each day. The same has been claimed about good literature. A fine piece of fiction addresses the same big questions — change, strategy, risk, critical decisions — that executives need to master to take their businesses forward. What’s more, good novels develop empathy and emotional skills that are necessary to doing business well. Indeed, the strategists that are needed to transform businesses often take time out to reflect. A compelling novel - written to engage us deeply, move us powerfully, reach us and teach us subconsciously – can help leaders access that state of reflection.  

  Good novel

Here’s a handful of novels that I’ve used in the management classroom, in my work outside of PwC, that might also help sharpen the all-round capabilities of tomorrow’s CEO.

  • For understanding customer needs, try The Circle by Dave Eggers. It’s the story of Mae Holland, a customer experience supervisor who volunteers to surrender her personal life to become a member of the perpetual social network of the corporation that employs her. The author presents a world where data and connectedness enable knowledge of everything, but it also points to the perils of over connectedness.
  • How about Leo Tolstoy’s Master and Man for the ability to take decisions in an unsettled environment. A landowner and his peasant server embark on a journey from one village to another. They leave in a hurry as the landowner is blindly focused on beating his competition to complete land purchase. They don’t consider the risks, and along the way they encounter shifting conditions that throw problem after problem in their way.  A tale of risk and reward.
  • A Week in December by Sebastien Faulks is a fictitious lookback to eve of the global economic crash. The place is London, December 2007, when a city hedge fund manager considers a move that will collapse a big bank but will make him billions. A wealthy businessman and his son, a barrister, a journalist and a train driver add to the colourful cast of characters that remind us of everything we don’t know that can impact the business world, and thus the need see around corners when navigating risky business.

Take a look at this infographic, from PwC's Resilience journal, of other classic, new and obscure novels that might enhance your leadership skills. What’s on your list?



Christopher Michaelson is Associate Professor of Ethics & Business Law at the University of St. Thomas and has published extensively in academic and trade journals. Christopher is also a Director at PwC US where he leads the Strategy and Risk Institute. Read more


Changing the way you think about electricity

Norbert Schwieters, PwCAuthor: Norbert Schwieters, Global Consumer and Industrial Products & Services Leader

Readers of this blog will already know that I believe many industry sectors are now facing significant disruption. Today I want to share some insights on how transformation in the power utilities industry is set to disrupt a whole host of other sectors – and fundamentally change the way you think about electricity.

The new electricity ecosystem
Until recently, for most users, electricity has been a commodity they had little choice over.

But that’s changing. In the past, there were clearly defined roles in the global electricity market. Generation, transmission, distribution, trading and retail were separate parts of the value chain. But now, there are new players and technologies, more provider–customer interaction, broader options and eroding borders between industries. As a result, consumers can choose from a whole range of potential power sources and providers.

The falling costs of renewables like solar, breakthroughs in large- and smaller-scale energy storage, and new energy-efficient technologies are also speeding up greater distribution of power generation, as our recent Global Power & Utilities Survey shows.

In short, technology is giving consumers more choices and independence in the way they source, use and store electricity. Some may even be able to make money too. The electricity industry is evolving from a unilateral system to an integrated networked ecosystem that’s highly digital and dynamic.

Market disruption is already here
So, why are markets changing so radically now? The root causes for the sector’s transformation are a unique combination of global megatrends. In addition to the impact of technological breakthroughs, concerns over emissions and climate change are putting providers under great pressure to change the mix of fuels they use and to encourage efficiency.

This isn’t just a vision of the future. In some parts of Germany, my home country, more than 80% of the local demand is already filled by distributed generation - much of it in the form of rooftop solar or wind projects run by land-owners rather than utilities.

And these changes aren’t just happening in Germany; our global survey confirms that energy transformation is underway all across the world, as our results from power company senior executives in 52 countries show:  


Market disruption

Your company in a post- energy transformation world
This revolution carries implications for all businesses, whether they’re part of the electricity sector and its supply chain or completely outside it, whether they’re interested observers or simply customers – from large businesses to individual households.

Instead of simply being a cost over which companies have very little control, electricity is becoming much more variable – and potentially more valuable. These transformations are opening up immense opportunities while forcing – and allowing – consumers of electricity to approach power in a new way: as prosumers, who both produce and consumer energy.

Companies can participate in demand management programmes, strike power purchase agreements for wind power (and hence bolster their green credibility), install storage that allows them to avoid peak demand charges, and deploy data and software services to manage use effectively. Each of these options presents business opportunities for new entrants, for companies in adjacent fields, and for savvy consumers. And that’s just the beginning.

New entrants are already operating in energy markets. Take US-based home security company Vivint, which now provides solar panel installation. Or UK private-equity backed company Hydro 66, which offers data centre space in northern Sweden, taking advantage of a naturally cool climate and proximity to sources of hydro-electric power. Traditional industry suppliers are expanding their activities too, for example, by partnering with agricultural or other operations to construct micro grids. And cross-over between power utilities and other industries will continue to increase. Tesla, the US automotive company, is using the expertise and scale it's built in constructing advanced car batteries to offer a new home energy storage product called the Powerwall, which can store excess electricity produced by solar panels as well as provide backup power.

No matter what industry you’re in, the time has come to think strategically about energy demand management and to imagine the possibilities for your own business.

Read more in A Strategist’s Guide to Power Industry Transformation.



Norbert Schwieters leads PwC's Global Consumer and Industrial Products & Services group. He's also the Global Energy, Utilities & Mining Leader and heads up the Energy industry team in Germany. Read more



Sharing jobs between man and machine

John Sviokla image

 Author: John Sviokla, Head of Global Thought Leadership

In our latest CEO pulse, we asked CEOs about the adoption and impact of robotics in their businesses. They told us the role of robotics was set to grow and to infiltrate other functions aside from manufacturing.





Business leaders across the globe were also positive about the impact of robotics in terms of productivity and generating revenue per employee. And 64% foresee that robotics will drive innovations in their business models. Personally, I was excited to learn that this latest poll of CEOs confirmed my suppositions outlined in an article I wrote some time ago with Benn Konsynski: Cognitive Reapportionment: Rethinking the location of judgment in managerial decision making1, indicating that robots and artificial intelligence would be part of the world’s workforce. So, what does this mean for the way we work with machines?

The idea of having the computer as a colleague, and a colleague that could think for itself, goes back to the roots of the modern computing movement. Yet, even though machine thinking now plays an integral part in the function of nearly all modern companies, it’s fair to say that most people’s opinion of their computerised ‘colleagues’ isn’t always complimentary. All too often, machines are either depicted as just a more productive robotic replacement for manual labour – or, at the other end of the imaginative scale, as a future threat to the human race.  But, as the CEO pulse findings demonstrate, the employment debate around robotics is less clear cut. We believe we’re going to see greater collaboration between man and machine as robotics paves the way for more sophisticated ‘augmented’ workforce models.



As robotics becomes more important to the success of companies, humans will need to need to learn how to work with machines. Organisations need the right mixture of human and machine-based intelligence to respond to an increasingly volatile global business world. Volume, volatility, velocity and veracity (the four Vs of information that’ll shape the future of business) demand new skills that have eluded organisations that, historically, depended on humans to perform all the key cognitive and decision making roles.

Managers will need a new way to understand these assets. Already, organisations are under pressure to monitor and distill external data, leverage internal expertise in decision-making, and modify and update current systems. In such a demanding information environment, managers are beginning to offload cognitive responsibilities onto systems. In the future, they’ll move to overseeing the work of both humans and machines.

So how will work and decision-making be apportioned in this new human-machine partnership? I believe that modern organisations need to be viewed in the framework of bundles of decisions. These bundles can be allocated across humans, systems or a combination of humans and systems. In the business environment of tomorrow, pressures will continue to grow for skills needed to capture, filter, use and convey useful information and knowledge more precisely and more quickly.

This ‘cognitive reapportionment’ is already happening in many industries. Take financial services, where credit requests are authorised by an algorithm in the credit authorisation software. Identifying potentially fraudulent account activity is now only managed by software programmed to spot and then flag-up anomalies in customer behaviour. In many countries, alerts are now delivered automatically by text message way before any human gets involved. 

Cognitive reapportionment can also work in reverse. If we look at aviation, pilots are permitted to take over control and coordination responsibilities that permit them to perform special manoeuvres. Depending upon conditions, the pilot, or the supporting avionic systems, are both capable of performing critical decision tasks. Yet, there are situations where only one of the actors should be allowed to make the decisions. The design that provided the best set of decision outcomes wins out. In the avionics system, the trim controls are often left with the information system, but the ejection decisions with the pilot.

As human and machine co-working increases, there will clearly be a class of decision situations that are more suited to human cognitors (many involving intuition, aesthetics and leaps of belief) and those best suited to the high performance characteristics of the organisation (speed, total enumeration, and massive data consideration). Many of the more interesting allocations of cognitive responsibilities will involve dynamic allocation of responsibilities among human and system cognitors. But, unless companies are open to the possibilities of human and machines sharing thinking and decision-making, computers will continue to be treated as second-class citizens… and business will suffer as a result.



Dr. John J. Sviokla is the head of Global Thought Leadership at PwC, where he also works with clients on strategy and innovation. In addition, John leads the Exchange - a think-tank that provides executives an opportunity to discuss important issues in a collaborative atmosphere.

1 Konsynski, B.R. & Sviokla, J.J. (1994) Cognitive Reapportionment: Rethinking the location of judgment in managerial decision making.  In C. Heckscher & A. Donnellon (Eds.), The post-bureaucratic organization: New perspectives on organizational change (pp. 91-107). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Time to reward the good behaviour

Terry Jon 03 Author: Jon Terry, Global Financial Services HR Consulting leader

In an attempt to change behaviours within the financial services industry, regulators, governments and firms have mostly focused their efforts on deterring the few that might behave inappropriately. Yet the industry continues to be plagued by scandal and foul play.  Could it be time for a new approach?

Earlier this year, as part of the 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, we interviewed 410 financial services CEOs in 62 countries for our report, A new take on talent.  It’s telling that 62% of Financial Services CEOs said they see lack of trust as a threat to growth, even higher than last year (59%).


FS CEOs trust (data explorer)CEOs have been striving to reshape culture and behaviour in the face of public disillusionment and continuing scandals within the industry. But perhaps a  less 'heavy-handed' focus on punishment, which runs the risk of creating an environment of fear, and more attention on nurturing and instilling a culture that rewards good behaviour could be a far more effective way forward.

People behaviourIn fact, evidence shows such an approach has its merits, including the results of a recent joint PwC/London Business School study of 2,341 managers from UK financial services organisations, representing banking, insurance and wealth management.

Why you can’t scare people into doing the right thing, shows behaviours are more likely to be changed for the better by increasing the positive outcomes of good behaviour, as opposed to focusing on the negative outcomes of the poor behaviour they want to stamp out.

The study highlights that a tough approach to inappropriate behaviour risks creating a climate of fear and breeding more unethical conduct in financial services firms – the opposite of what the public, regulators and firms want.

The key to effective change is in being able to hone in on ‘the moments that matter’ - the interactions and decision points where behaviours have the most impact on outcomes such as dealings with customers, or how insurance claims are handled - and then adjusting the specific behaviours that need reinforcing within the firm. This helps set the right tone, direction and momentum for nurturing change, and building a strong culture within the organisation. As shown in another recent piece of PwC analysis, Forging a winning culture, having a strong culture is more correlated with sustainable high performance than strategy, operating model or product coverage.

Indeed, behavioural change is one component in creating a winning culture - which is essential if financial services firms around the world are to retain and attract talent, sustain profitability and flourish.



Jon Terry leads PwC’s global financial services HR consulting practice. Find out more


Five reasons why diversity and inclusion matter to every business – and every employee

Dennis Nally Jan15 By Dennis Nally, PwC

The evidence speaks for itself – and so does the everyday experience of businesses across the world. Diversity and inclusion lead to more innovation, more opportunities for all, better access to talent, and better business performance.

But how and why? To me, there are five reasons why diversity and inclusion are an absolute imperative for any business.

1. Diversity and inclusion are quite simply the right thing to do
It’s about creating equal opportunities for everyone – and we can all see signs of progress. But the statistics make it equally clear that there’s still a long way to go.

Take gender equality. Women account for 60% of college graduates but only 3% of leaders worldwide. Women and girls also represent two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population. That’s why PwC is supporting HeForShe – a movement led by UN Women, which aims to mobilise 1 billion men and boys in support of gender equality.

2. It’s good for business

Companies that embrace diversity gain higher market share and a competitive edge in accessing new markets – a ‘diversity dividend’ first quantified in a recent study by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI). Business leaders increasingly recognise this. In our most recent 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, 85% of the CEOs we surveyed whose companies have a formal diversity and inclusiveness strategy said it’s improved their bottom line.

 Diveristy thumb3. If organisations don’t manage diversity properly, they’ll get left behind

Today, workplace equality is front-of-mind for businesses, governments, regulators, society, and – most important of all – the vital talent that will drive their future success. So companies that don’t focus on this aren’t just at risk of being out of date, they already are.

In our most recent Global CEO Survey, 77% of CEO said they already have a diversity and inclusion strategy or plan to adopt one in the next 12 months. And the talent they want to recruit supports this view: other PwC research  shows that 86% of female and 74% of male millennials consider employers’ policies on diversity, equality and inclusion when deciding which company to work for.

4. Diversity plugs the talent gap for businesses - and is also good for society

Today, one of the biggest concerns for CEOs worldwide is not having the right people to
run and grow their businesses. So they’re starting to look to diversity as a way to address this issue.

Good workplace diversity doesn’t just benefit the businesses themselves, but also the economies they operate in – a fact underlined by research from the non-profit organisation Catalyst. This shows that increasing the level of female employment could help raise GDP by 5% in the US, 11% in Italy, and 27% in India. And that’s before you start to quantify the positive social impacts that would also arise.

5. Diversity and inclusion bring us all opportunities to learn from others and grow

By working with people from different backgrounds and with different experiences and working styles, we learn and get another view.  Diverse views make for better decisions, and thus drive a high-performance culture.

In my mind, the benefits of diversity are clear and unarguable. But this does not mean that embracing diversity is always easy. That’s why we all need to show leadership and hold ourselves to account.

Which brings me to PwC’s second Global Diversity Week, which we’re celebrating from 15 to 19 June. Our goal is simple: to ensure that every person at PwC – no matter where they sit – understands three things. First, our business case for diversity. Second, that it’s a priority for global and local leadership. And third, what he or she can personally do to become even more inclusive. 

Diversity is a journey – and we don’t kid ourselves that we’re near our destination yet. But we’ll keep raising the pace, energised by the fact that this is a business-critical journey that is also the right thing to do for our business, our people and our communities.



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.




Let’s face up to the gender gap

Terry Jon 03Author: Jon Terry, Global Financial Services HR Consulting leader

“Gender needs to be an open and honest conversation…not discussing it isn’t working anymore”, said Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, in a webcast conversation with Bob Moritz, Chairman of PwC US. Ms Sandberg is concerned that progress on bringing more women into senior management seems to have stalled in recent years. Unfortunately, financial services (FS) is no exception, with women still accounting for less than 20% of senior management positions.

Why is this? Within FS, the business case for gender equality and diversity as a whole is compelling. In a rapidly evolving marketplace, boards want to broaden their talent pool and attract people with fresh ideas and experiences. Nearly 60% of the FS industry leaders taking part in our latest global CEO survey say that their organisation now has a strategy to promote diversity and inclusiveness. More than three-quarters of these CEOs believe that diversity has enhanced innovation, customer satisfaction and overall business performance.

And the low number of women reaching senior management positions certainly isn’t down to a lack of ambition. We’ve just carried out a survey of nearly 600 female millennials (women born between 1980 and 1995) working in FS. The women see opportunities for career progression as the most important attribute in an employer (60%), the same as men.

More than four-fifths also say that a firm’s policy on diversity, equality and inclusiveness is important when choosing whether to join the organisation. This not only reflects their desire to work for a company that offers them opportunities to develop their individual careers, but also be part of an organisation that promotes positive values. Yet, more than 60% of the women in our survey say that their employer isn’t doing enough to encourage diversity. Half believe that promotion is biased towards men. The fact that only 20% of their male compatriots think that men have a better chance of promotion suggests that a lot of this bias is unconscious.



Voting with their feet
There’s clearly a danger that if women’s expectations aren’t met, they’ll be put off joining or leave, and that would be a terrible loss of talent and potential for a business.

So what can firms do to address these critical issues? I think CEOs should make a clear business case articulating why equality and inclusiveness are critical competitive priorities, and ensure management at all levels of the organisation promote them. Key questions include: "How can we engage female millennials in shaping our diversity strategy?" and "How can we adjust our talent strategies to consider their needs?"

It’s then vital to identify the biases, conscious and unconscious, that are holding women back. In many organisations this is likely to require a major rethink of progression and succession.

The firms that get this right are going to have a head start in an increasingly competitive job market, as the brightest and best candidates will actively seek out organisations that have a strong reputation for diversity and inclusiveness.

Jon Terry leads PwC’s global financial services HR consulting practice. Find out more


Visit CEO Insights next week for more thoughts on diversity and inclusion as PwC celebrates Global Diversity Week from 15-19 June.


The complex dynamics of disruption

Norbert Schwieters, PwCAuthor: Norbert Schwieters, Global Consumer and Industrial Products & Services Leader

In my last blog, I wrote about the disruptive forces affecting CEOs and their companies – based on what CEOs told us as part of our annual Global CEO Survey. This time, I wanted to look more closely at whether those forces are affecting some industry sectors more than others – and why.

I was struck by how complex the picture is; every sector is grappling to a greater or lesser extent with disruption – from shifts in customer behaviour, to new competitors, and changing regulation. I’ve tried to cherry-pick a few elements that caught my eye.

From the most disrupted…
Perhaps it’s no surprise to find that financial services (FS) collectively feels more prone to disruption than other industries, with insurance and banking particularly affected. Obviously regulation here is a big driver of change, but many other factors are at play too. The transformation in the financial sector reflects changes to the design of the financial system, the impact of digitisation and the level of transformation faced by its customers in various industries – so the combined impact is massive. In recent years, the traditional financial services arena has also been upended by new entrants like supermarkets and digital payment providers. John Neal of QBE shares his views on both the negative and positive aspects of these disruptors.




…to the most disruptive
Within the technology, information, communications and entertainment (TICE) sectors, entertainment and media companies stand out as facing the most disruption. This reflects the impact of digital transformation, with digital distribution channels and changing consumer expectations having a major impact on how content is delivered and the customer experience that’s created. Interestingly, technology CEOs don’t appear to be expecting higher levels of disruption compared to those in other sectors – perhaps a reflection that technology companies expect to be creating rather than experiencing disruption. That’s confirmed by the large number of CEOs in other industries expecting competition from technology companies in the future.

Digital transformation as the driver
The consumer and industrial products and services (CIPS) sectors are different from FS and TICE as they all – energy, industrial products, automotive, retail and consumer as well as health industries – deal primarily with physical products and services. In essence, they’re ‘analogue’ rather than ‘digital’. Transformation is taking hold here as well, although its impact is experienced in different ways depending on where along the physical value chain (up-, mid- or downstream) the industry sits.

In general, it seems that upstream/resource sectors like energy and mining are less worried about disruption than midstream/manufacturing sectors - and even less than downstream sectors like retail and consumer and pharma/healthcare. This may be because the customer experience plays a huge role in downstream sectors and offers an obvious entry point for digital transformation. Not surprisingly, many retail and pharma CEOs ranked changes in distribution channels as being disruptive for their industry. The retail industry is transforming as the continued rise of mobile as a key shopping channel drives a move towards what we call ‘total retail’. Meanwhile, in the pharma industry, new types of medications, including personalised medicine, will pose challenges to distribution strategies.

Power and utilities also stand out in terms of experiencing higher levels of disruption within CIPS. To me, this reflects the energy transformation that’s taken hold in this sector across the globe, along with the sector’s digital transformation.

It’s clear that it’s complicated
There’s no doubt in my mind that CIPS sectors are on the verge of being the theatre for a huge transformation play, as the full impact of the megatrends unfolds. The influence of technology especially will cascade down into the mid- and upstream sectors – we can already see the next generation of manufacturing coming, including the impact of the internet of things, 3D printing and advances in robotics, nano and other technologies.

However, this transformation is complex and there’s a thorny question at its core: how to combine the physical (analogue) value chain that, for so long, has been central to the CIPS DNA, with the virtual (digital) value chain that builds the foundation for an increasingly digitised world?

Every industry and every business out there is experiencing disruption at some level. And what’s even clearer is that CEOs who want to maintain their competitive edge will need to spend time exploring the implications of these disruptive trends: thinking through where their company is now, where they want it to be tomorrow, and what business decisions and strategy they need to navigate – and perhaps even harness – the disruptions on the road ahead.


Norbert Schwieters leads PwC's Global Consumer and Industrial Products & Services group. He's also the Global Energy, Utilities & Mining Leader and heads up the Energy industry team in Germany. Read more


Future-proofing Australia’s workforce


LS_Building_LowResAuthor: Luke Sayers - CEO, PwC Australia and Vice Chairman, PwC Asia

The older I get, the more time I spend thinking about the future. In particular, I worry about the kind of world my four daughters and the rest of their generation will inherit from our generation, and the kind of opportunities that will be available to them when they finish their education. 

I believe the future success of any country – and consequently the children in that country – depends in large part on its ability to keep up with and compete in the economy of the future. For example, in Australia it’s clear that a large part of what kept us going in the past (the resources boom) isn’t going to sustain us much longer. And we’re already seeing the consequences of a failure to adapt - slower GDP growth, declining real incomes, declining employment, and an increasing shortfall in tax revenues.

Businesses are working hard to come to terms with the new reality and are beginning to build workforces that’ll enable them to compete in a new, largely digital economy. But what does this mean in practical terms for today’s children who are starting to think about their working future?

Smart move imageNew research from PwC Australia shows that over the next 20 years, 5.1 million Australian jobs – that’s almost half of all current jobs in our country– are at risk from digital disruption. That means a greater than 70% chance that the job could be automated by technology.  Finance clerks, insurance and real estate brokers, and even accountants could all become jobs of the past as businesses increasingly look for employees with the skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) that will define the jobs of the future.

Yet, just as employers’ appetites for employees with these skills takes off, it seems we may not be able to produce enough graduates to meet the demand. In 2012, 52% of higher education students in Singapore graduated from STEM-related courses. In Australia the proportion was just 16% – and this number has remained flat for more than a decade.

Our research shows that Australia needs to lift the level of STEM workers by 126,327 (about 1% of the current workforce)  if we’re going to be competitive with the top performing countries in terms of STEM skills – countries like Germany, Israel,  South Korea and Sweden. Our modelling shows that boosting our workforce in this way could yield an additional $57.4 billion in GDP over the next 20 years. That’s a staggering amount to forego if we fail to act on this knowledge - and ultimately our children will pay the price.

PwC’s purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We want to make a positive difference – not just for our clients, but to broader society and the communities in which we live and work. With that goal in mind, PwC Australia has decided to put STEM at the heart of our strategy. Our vision is to help Australia become a global leader in problem solving and innovation, underpinned by excellence in STEM capabilities.

We’ve started to collaborate with experts in the field to work out how we can help increase the engagement of young people in STEM subjects. And we’re also working with inspiring organisations like the Foundation for Young Australians and the Australian Council for Educational Research to help more young Australians find their passion for a STEM skill and the future it could create for them.

But time is not on our side. The global economy is advancing at an unprecedented rate and Australia has a long way to catch up to world-leaders in innovation and STEM. We need to act now.



Luke Sayers is the CEO of PwC Australia and Vice Chairman of PwC Asia, PwC's network of firms across the Asia Pacific region. Luke leads the strategic direction of the firm and provides leadership to a team of over 5,000 people, who partner with global, Asian and Australian businesses, governments, high net worth individuals and entrepreneurs to help them grow and succeed. Read more