PwC's 27th Annual Global CEO Survey - SEE findings

SEE CEO Survey
27th Annual Global CEO Survey​

​Thriving in an age of continuous reinvention

The 27th Global CEO Survey, based on responses from 4,702 CEOs, including 181 from the Southeast Europe (SEE), highlights that a majority of companies are taking steps toward reinvention. Despite significant changes to their companies’ business models, there is a heightened concern about their long-term viability. While the CEOs operating in SEE express more optimism about global economic growth compared to last year, 50% of them remain uncertain about their companies surviving over a decade on their current trajectory. ​

This report provides insights from CEOs across Southeast Europe, highlighting the substantial challenges and the awareness among CEOs regarding the necessity for change. It underscores the importance of delivering sustained outcomes for stakeholders and society. To offer a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities related to significant business reimagination, the report is structured into relevant sections under three themes: ​

Explore the findings

Click on a section to navigate

The reinvention imperative

Reviewing the state of the economy and CEO anxiety about the long-term viability of their business models.

1. An enduring imperative to reinvent​

2. Pressures and threats

Looming existential change

Examining two megatrends—climate change and technological disruption—which are poised to spur reinvention.

3. Redefining climate priorities

4. The AI opportunity​

5. The AI challenge

Your reinvention playbook

Outlining essential actions that companies can take in order to jump-start continuous reinvention.

6. Turn barriers into opportunities​

7. Reinvention

8. Recalibrate expectations for climate priorities

The reinvention imperative​

Reviewing the state of the economy and CEO anxiety about the long-term viability of their business models.

1. An enduring imperative to reinvent​

  • 50% of business leaders operating in SEE doubted their company’s current trajectory would keep them viable beyond the next decade - up from 40% just 12 months earlier.​
  • Majority of respondents report having taken some steps to change how they create, deliver and capture value over the last five years.​ 
  • The increased apprehension among CEOs regarding corporate viability does not seem to align with immediate economic concerns. Interestingly, more CEOs anticipate global economic growth in the next 12 months compared to a year ago, although there's a slight increase in those expecting contraction rather than improvement.

Our perspective: The ongoing technological disruption, the impact of climate change, and other rapidly advancing global megatrends are driving CEOs to make necessary adaptations. As the urgency to adapt increases, more CEOs will emphasise significant strategic shifts to facilitate the reinvention of their business models. However, recognising the necessity of such changes is just the beginning; leading companies go beyond transforming their business models. They also focus on continuously evolving their operating and technology models that support the overall strategy. Embracing this mindset shift and addressing the associated management challenges are substantial. To win, leaders must consider a broader range of initiatives - and apply them in combination.

An enduring imperative to reinvent
An enduring imperative to reinvent
An enduring imperative to reinvent
An enduring imperative to reinvent

2. Pressures and threats

  • Compared to the last five years, CEOs expect changes associated with technology, government regulation, and change in customer preferences, among others, to have a far larger impact on the way they create, deliver and capture value over the next 3 years. ​
  • When asked about their vulnerability to significant threats in 2024, inflation emerges as the primary concern for executives in both the SEE and CEE regions. While slightly lower than the 44% reported in the previous year, 30% of CEOs in SEE still express significant exposure to inflation. Similar to 2023 results, macroeconomic volatility retains a high ranking, with 22% of CEOs considering it the second most significant threat, which is among the top 3 in CEE. Additionally, reflecting the ongoing geopolitical tensions due to war in Ukraine, 20% of CEOs in SEE identify geopolitical conflict as one of the top three threats, ranking 2nd in CEE.​

Our perspective: The notable increase in the anticipated pressure on CEOs over the next three years, driven by factors influencing business model change, signals a growing imperative for reinvention. By analysing the trends affecting the region and industry, CEOs can pinpoint opportunities that leverage their company's strengths. It is crucial for CEOs to assess the genuine desires and requirements of various stakeholders, encompassing not only customers but also suppliers, business partners, investors, regulators, and society as a whole.

Pressures and threats
Pressures and threats

Looming existential change

Examining two megatrends—climate change and technological disruption—which are poised to spur reinvention.

3. Redefining climate priorities

  • Climate change is the second most important global trend influencing business reorganisation. Almost one third of SEE respondents expect that climate change will alter their business operations and reporting of performance results in the next three years.​
  • On the other hand, executives in the SEE region, as well as in CEE and globally, state that a faster green transition is hindered by complex regulations (47%), lower returns on climate-friendly investments (39%), and a lack of suitable "green" technological solutions in their industry. ​

Our perspective: Climate change is a significant trend driving CEOs to reinvent, with mixed success in meeting objectives. While progress is needed, one potential blind spot is nature-based climate solutions. CEOs should explore opportunities to build nature-positive business models, addressing risks, enhancing financial returns, and benefiting society.

Redefining climate priorities​
Redefining climate priorities​
Redefining climate priorities​
Redefining climate priorities​

4. The AI opportunity

  • A majority (57%) of CEOs in SEE believe that generative AI will significantly change the way their company creates, delivers and captures value over the next three years. This aligns with sentiments expressed at the CEE level, illustrating a clear consensus among business leaders regarding the trajectory of AI. ​
  • CEOs anticipate many positive near-term business impacts from GenAI, including increased revenues and efficiency gains in both their own time at work and that of their employees.​

Our perspective:  Generative AI is on the verge of reshaping business models, transforming work processes, and revolutionising entire industries. CEOs face the challenge of balancing the potential risks with the urgency to capitalise on opportunities swiftly. In this journey, they must involve their workforce, ensuring transparency, a clear purpose, and building trust in AI-related strategies and decisions. This approach can ease the concerns of employees apprehensive about AI, fostering a more comfortable environment for experimentation and, ultimately, innovation.

The AI opportunity

5. The AI challenge

  • CEOs are most concerned about GenAI increasing cybersecurity risk—and over half agree that it is likely to increase the spread of misinformation in their company. ​
  • Many have also expressed concerns about the spread of misinformation and the magnitude of legal liabilities, as well as the risk of reputational loss. ​
  • However, the majority of SEE executives (57%) emphasise that the implementation of artificial intelligence will require employees to enhance their skills. ​

Our perspective: Combined, these findings highlight the societal responsibility of CEOs in ensuring the responsible use of AI within their organisations. Given the rapid pace of innovation and the inevitable delay in establishing new norms and regulations, businesses currently bear much of the responsibility for managing this advancing technology.

The AI challenge

Your reinvention playbook

Outlining essential actions that companies can take in order to jump-start continuous reinvention.

6. Turn barriers into opportunities

  • Surprisingly few SEE CEOs, much like their CEE and global peers, perceived some obstacles, like lack of board support, to have much impact on change efforts. 
  • Conversely, many perceived constraints fall in a CEO’s realm of influence.​
  • For example, efficiency was a concern for CEOs, who reported 40% of time spent on administrative processes is inefficient on average.​

Our perspective: C-suite leaders can do more to address inefficiencies and break through barriers—but they can’t do everything. It’s critical to build alignment between leaders and employees around priorities for change, and to build a culture of trust so employees feel safe to propose better ways of doing things.

Turn barriers into opportunities
Turn barriers into opportunities

7. Reinvention

  • Almost all CEOs in both SEE and globally state that they have implemented changes in the way their companies operate over the last five years, but in their efforts to reorganize, they face numerous difficulties.​
  • Similar to CEE and global peers, 63% of SEE CEOs state regulatory environment significantly hinders their ability to change their business model​

Our perspective: Regardless of numerous hurdles, the CEOs need to insure that their companies are ready for the future. CEOs need to focus not only on their business model, but also on upskilling their workforce to embrace new technology and innovation, as one of the most important enablers of reinvention.

8. Recalibrate expectations for​ climate priorities

  • One quarter (25%) of CEOs expect climate change to alter their business model over the next three years. ​
  • 31% say their companies have set lower hurdle rates for climate-friendly investments, of which majority accept decreased ROI of 1% or more.​

Our perspective: Return requirements are critical inputs to corporate resource allocation decisions, so evidence that CEOs are flexing their expectations as they face up to the climate challenge is a hopeful sign of potential for progress on climate change. Given their focus on long-term value and performance, CFOs are natural partners for CEOs as they build more sustainable business models.​

Sustaining the change

This year’s survey results reflect an awareness among CEOs that they are navigating critical strategic inflection points and feel a sense of urgency and a bias towards action. The data also suggest there’s a growing premium on leadership effectiveness to maintain energy, challenge the status quo and increase momentum. In a recent strategy+business article, PwC’s Ryan Hawk, Nadia Kubis and Blair Sheppard described a number of critical leadership priorities for reinvention-minded leaders. ​

In today's business environment, CEOs are faced with numerous challenges. Staying ahead of global trends and emerging risks is critical because, as we’ve seen repeatedly in recent years, companies face complex threats—like geopolitical conflict, macroeconomic volatility, inflation and cyberattacks — that are increasingly interconnected.​

The predominant findings of this year's research strongly indicate heightened uncertainty in the business environment, highlighting the imperative for business leaders to accelerate the restructuring of their operations to adeptly navigate changes. Many are already actively transforming their business models, investing in technology and employees, and effectively managing the risks and opportunities arising from climate transition. CEOs are willing and ready for "green" investments, accepting a decrease in ROI but improving their overall ratings among their stakeholders, including investors. ​

Those who take appropriate measures quickly will be in a better position to achieve success not only in the near future but also to become long-term leaders in sustainable business.​

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Jelena Miletic

Jelena Miletic

Senior Manager, Marketing & Communications, PwC Serbia

Tel: (+381) 64 82 03 815