Inside the mind of the investor: how CEOs can improve engagement

Author: Richard Sexton, Vice Chairman, Global Assurance at PwC RS pic

I’m pleased to announce that this year’s Global Investor Survey has now been released. Following the success of last year’s survey, we again set out to gauge sentiment among investment professionals and compare it with the views of chief executive officers (CEOs). We asked both groups for their views on growth prospects, threats facing companies today and the challenges and opportunities presented by technological innovation to see where companies and the investment community could find common ground.

Unsurprisingly, their responses showed a variety of perspectives – but what areas stood out most?

Key areas of concern and opportunity

I think the two main areas that I found interesting this year were the generally upbeat view of investment professionals about global economic growth prospects, and the increasing influence of technology as a disruptor and enabler.

Although both groups cited geopolitical uncertainty as one of the top five threats to company growth prospects (investors naming it the top threat and CEOs naming it the fourth), investors also remained relatively positive about global growth prospects. Nearly half of the 554 investors surveyed (45%) expect global economic growth prospects to improve over the next 12 months, over double the number of last year and more optimistic than CEOs.

Another area investors have strong views is the effect technology has had on competition in the industries they follow. There are very few who think it’s had no effect at all, and whilst recognising the speed of technological change is slowing, almost one in five (19%) still think technology will completely reshape competition within 5 years.

An area where CEO and investor views roughly aligned though was around automation, and the possibility of it reducing headcount. 85% of investors expect automation to reduce company headcount, compared with 80% of CEOs who are expecting their company headcount to decline. So companies may wish to think about how they can invest in developing their employees’ skills now to prepare them for changes to their traditional roles as technologies such as AI, robotics and automation become more prevalent.

Panel 1

Areas of improvement for companies

This year’s research identified a number of areas in which companies can improve their communications with investment professionals and other stakeholders, including their approaches to supporting innovation, the need for a strong corporate purpose and values, and steps being taken to prevent cyber-attacks and data breaches.

At the end of every section of this year’s survey we’ve included a number of questions for companies to ask themselves. We hope these questions, along with the findings of this year’s survey, will help improve the quality of engagement, and hopefully understanding, between companies and the investment community.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the individuals who took the time to answer our surveys and speak to our researchers in person. Without hearing their opinions we would be unable to share these insights.

If you would like more information on this year’s survey, please contact Hilary Eastman here.

Richard Sexton is Vice Chairman; Global Assurance, an appointment he took up on 1 July 2013. In this role, he focuses on further building the PwC network’s global assurance practice with particular emphasis of quality and regulatory matters, trust in the profession, and broader financial markets. Read Richard's full biography.


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