Many CEOs don’t expect return to normal until 2022: KPMG

  • Just under half of APAC CEOs believe normalcy will only return next year
  • Just under four in 10 view vaccine misinformation a pressing concern

Many CEOs don’t expect return to normal until 2022: KPMG NORMAL might not return until at least next year, noted a majority of chief executive officers (CEOs) worldwide, according to the 2021 KPMG CEO Outlook Pulse Survey that was recently published.

The survey, which involved 500 CEOs worldwide, noted that 45% do not expect to see a return to normal until sometime in 2022, while 31% anticipate that it will happen “later this year.”

Interestingly, the study found that only 6% of CEOs in Asia Pacific predict a return to normalcy by this year, with a significant majority of 59% in the region envisioning that it will only happen in 2022.

The survey also found that 61% of CEOs will look for a successful Covid-19 vaccine rollout – where at least half of the population is vaccinated – before asking staff to return to offices. Nine out of 10 leaders intend to ask their employees to report when they have been vaccinated in order to protect the wider workforce.

Many CEOs don’t expect return to normal until 2022: KPMG “The Covid-19 vaccine rollout is providing leaders with a much-needed dose of optimism in preparation for the new reality,” Johan Idris, managing partner of KPMG in Malaysia (pic), said in a statement.

“Unsurprisingly however, CEOs want to be confident that their workforce is protected against this virus before making any major business decisions. We can see this in how CEOs are only anticipating returning to business as normal in 2022.”

Johan said over one-third of CEOs in APAC consider their business model “changed forever”.

“Business leaders must now seriously plan for the long-term implications of the pandemic and grab this opportunity to redefine what the new normal looks like,” he stressed.

Other key findings

KPMG’s survey revealed that 68% of CEOs want to see government encouragement or enablement as a prompt to return to a normal course of business.

They are also worried that misinformation on the safety of the vaccine would cause their employees to avoid it, a sentiment that is reflected in the fact that 35% consider this their most pressing concern regarding vaccine distribution.

Additionally, 82% of CEOs agree that public-private partnerships are for upgrading the infrastructure around digital and innovation critical for business continuity, and that it cannot be achieved by one country or company alone.

Digitalisation is still among the top focuses for business leaders. KPMG’s survey found that CEOs are planning to invest more in technologies such as data security measures (63%), digital communications such as video conferencing and messaging capabilities (54%), automation (54%), and customer-centric technologies such as chatbots (53%).

Many CEOs don’t expect return to normal until 2022: KPMG

While 69% indicated they are prioritising technology investments as a result of pandemic implications, at least half are thinking of long-term cost savings, the poll noted

Another top concern is cybersecurity risk, with business leaders identifying it as the top concern impacting their growth and operations over a three-year period, KPMG said.

This could be a result of the rapid turn to remote working in the past year, with KPMG expecting to more seriously consider greater investment and stricter limits to better protect their data and assets.

ESG (environmental, social and governance) concerns are still abound – 98% of business leaders are focused on locking in the sustainability and climate change gains their companies have made as a result of the pandemic, the poll revealed.

Nearly all of them (99%) are looking to upweight their focus towards the social component of their ESG programs, it added.

“While the world as we know it may never return to the way we were before Covid-19, it is clear is that we must continue to adapt and stay ahead of the waves of change,” said Johan.

“The time is ripe for us to rethink how we work, live and interact with one another, and restructure and reshape it together, for better.”


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