New barometer captures C-suite views on outlook for 2021

09/02/2021 Mazars’ inaugural C-suite barometer captures the views of over 500 senior executives from around the world during a time of unparalleled social disruption. Despite the gloomy headlines, most business leaders were still positive about their growth prospects. What else does the report reveal about businesses’ expectations in 2021?

Conducted in Q3 2020 via an online survey, the C-suite barometer is an opportunity to hear from businesses first-hand, gain insights into their mindsets, learn more about short- and long-term priorities and discover the trends expected to have the biggest impact in the coming years. 

Positive despite the pandemic

Perhaps surprisingly, the survey found that businesses are generally optimistic about the future. Despite the tough environment, the majority (58%) expected to end 2020 with revenue higher than in 2019. Executives were even more positive about 2021: 71% expected higher revenues than in 2020. Respondents from Latin America had the most optimistic outlook, with 91% reporting a ‘positive’ outlook for growth in 2021, well above the global average of 71%.

This is not to disregard the negative impact of the Covid-19 crisis, which is evident in the 35% who said their revenue would be lower in 2020 than in 2019 and the 21% that predict a negative growth outlook for 2021.

Tech trends set to drive transformation

Business leaders predicted economic and technology-related trends will have the biggest impact on their business over the next three to five years, with 50% expecting to undertake a technology transformation during this period. The good news is they are confident in their ability to manage these trends: notably, 90% of businesses feel equipped to respond to trends in technology.

Other business transformations cited as being priorities over the next three-to-five years included performance improvement-related transformations (47%), and the development of new services, markets and business models (46%). Cultural transformation was considered the least likely change for organisations to go through, at 40%.

Regional and sectoral differences

The C-suite barometer also explores whether an activity leads to more impact in the short-term (up to one year) or long-term (one year or more). Activities including external growth opportunities, corporate strategy and R&D/innovation were considered the longest-term, with activities such as reducing headcount, addressing immediate financing issues and managing suppliers classified as the shortest-term.

Opinions varied substantially depending on company size, location, industry and function. For example, amongst automotive and manufacturing, and financial services executives, sustainability is one of the longest-term activities, but those in the tech and telco sector consider it relatively short-term.

Overall, executives plan to shift towards longer-term investment strategies (more than one-year), especially in women-led businesses1. This held true across all regions except Africa, specifically South Africa, which expects an increased focus on short-term activities including immediate financing issues and efficiency/cost reduction, and a relatively reduced focus on some longer-term activities such as sourcing new talent and corporate strategy.

Under-estimating climate risk?

Even before the pandemic, climate change was often near the top of the agenda among media, regulators and public opinion. In many people’s eyes, the pandemic served to underline yet further the necessity of a change in our society’s relationship with the environment. Nevertheless, only 20% of respondents globally said they expected climate change to have the biggest impact on their business: the lowest on the list. This figure is slightly higher among businesses in Western Europe (25%), suggesting it is higher up executive agendas there, but is less than 20% in Latin America, Africa, EE/CIS and USA.

Climate risk is also the trend leaders are least comfortable with: some 28% said they were not confident in their ability to respond to this trend (vs. 10% for trends in technology/innovation).

Other critical issues explored in the report include:

  • Do expectations of female-led businesses differ from those led by men?
  • Which regions are the most optimistic about the future?
  • How do opinions and expectations vary between industry sectors and business sizes?
  • Which trends are expected to have the biggest impact on businesses in the next three to five years?
  • What types of transformation do organisations expect to undertake in the near future?
  • Which activities are businesses focusing their time, money and resources on?

Read the full C-suite barometer here.