Canadian CEOs optimistic about economic future

Discover why Canadian CEOs are more optimistic about their company's growth in the near future than their global counterparts despite economic, geopolitical and technological uncertainty.

This KPMG report provides insights into the major forces disrupting the Canadian business landscape and important perspectives on how CEOs are equipping their companies and themselves to manage these challenges over the next three years.

Key findings:


Three-quarters of Canada's CEOs (75 per cent) see disruption as an opportunity for their business, not a threat, and 86 per cent say they are not waiting to be disrupted by competitors; instead, their business is actively disrupting its sector. Furthermore, the majority (98 per cent) of Canadian CEOs (compared to 74 per cent of global CEOs) believe that in three years they will largely be the same company they are today.

Strategic top priorities

Business digitization is today's number one focus area, rising from sixth place last year. Limiting brand risk in an age of transparency rose from fourth place to tie at first place in 2017. Greater speed to market came in as the second top priority, while three others tied for third place: stronger client focus, talent development and becoming more data driven. Innovation, often seen as a strong path to growth, and part of the government of Canada's strategic economic agenda, is not among the top priorities.

Strategies for driving growth

To drive growth, 41 per cent of Canadian CEOs are prioritizing increased penetration in existing markets, 20 per cent by vertically integrating their supply chain and only 16 per cent are focusing on innovation. This compares to their global peers who plan to drive growth through a wide variety of strategies including increasing penetration in existing markets (53 per cent), focusing on innovation (47 per cent), penetrating new verticals (32 per cent) and expanding into new geographical markets (21 per cent).

Confidence in global market

Down significantly from 81 per cent in 2016, CEO confidence in the global economic outlook has dipped to 43 per cent. Conversely, most Canadian CEOs (75 per cent) are confident about Canada's economic growth, while 82 per cent believe their own company will grow in the next three years. Similarly, most Canadian CEOs (55 per cent) are confident in their own industry's prospects for growth in the next three years, down from 85 per cent in 2016. When it comes to growth opportunities, 63 per cent of Canadian CEOs are focusing on Central and South America, 31 per cent are focusing on Canada and 24 per cent see growth opportunities in the U.S.

Impact of geopolitical risk

The majority (86 per cent) of Canadian CEOs are bolstering their management teams to better understand geopolitical risk and 84 per cent are spending more time on scenario planning given today's uncertain geopolitical climate. Globally, 52 per cent of CEOs believe the political landscape has had a greater impact on their organization than they have seen for many years and 31 per cent think protectionist policies in their country will rise in the next three years.

Top-line growth and taxes, inflation, interest rates

The majority (96 per cent) of Canadian CEOs believe tax rates will rise, 90 per cent say inflation will rise and 80 per cent expect interest rates to rise over the next three years. And despite concerns that inflation, interest rates and tax rates will rise in the next three years, Canadian CEOs are confident their companies will experience top-line growth over the next 12 months.

Hacking and ransomware attacks

Canadian CEOs clearly believe they are making progress in their management of cyber. Over one-third (37 per cent) of Canadian CEOs feel they are fully prepared for a cyber event, compared to their global counterparts at 42 per cent. While this is up from 13 per cent and 25 per cent respectively in 2016, it does not mean that companies will escape unscathed in a cyber breach. Nor does it confer equivalent levels of protection for every type of cyber event. What's more, 63 per cent of Canadian CEOs say they are only somewhat prepared for social media hacking and 59 per cent are only somewhat prepared for a ransomware attack, an employee-led breach or a distributed denial of service attack.