Most CEOs in an annual PwC survey are concerned that cyberthreats could have negative impact on their corporate growth prospects.
Most CEOs in an annual PwC survey are concerned that cyberthreats could have negative impact on their corporate growth prospects.

CEOs are concerned that cyberthreats could negatively impact their corporate growth, with 61 percent claiming that concern in the PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC) 19th Annual Global CEO Survey report.

The survey polled 1,409 CEOs in 83 countries about the current and future climate of international business. The corresponding report ranks cyberthreats as the eighth most feared impediment to business growth. However, geopolitical uncertainty, especially in unstable regions of conflict where cyberattacks and cyberespionage are a growing threat, was the second largest concern (74 percent), behind only over-regulation.

Among industries, the insurance sector expressed the most apprehension over cyberthreats hindering business growth, with 79 percent citing the problem as a legitimate concern. The energy sector was the industry most concerned with geopolitical uncertainty (89 percent).

Indeed, while 60 percent of CEOs said they see more growth opportunities today compared to three years ago, 66 percent said they see more threats than previously (32 percent replied that they see only more threats).

Considering the above concerns, it's no surprise that 55 percent of survey-takers acknowledged they are concerned about a lack of consumer trust in their businesses today, compared to 37 percent three years ago. CEOs are therefore turning to technology to keep customers and other key corporate stakeholders engaged, satisfied and loyal, the report continues.

“To me it's actually encouraging to see how CEOs are actually confronting today's realities but also thinking about the long term,” said PwC International Chairman Dennis Nally, presenting survey results in Davos, Switzerland, site of the World Economic Forum. “I also think that by focusing on meeting the greater needs of stakeholders, not just shareholders, the current level of trust in business can begin to get reestablished.”

However, only 30 percent of CEOs believe that personal data security solutions are among the key technologies that generate robust stakeholder engagement. Data mining and analytics solutions were tops on this list (68 percent), while security solutions ranked seventh overall.

Data protection safeguards ranked dead last in terms of CEOs' top three priorities for today's businesses and governments (among nine available response choices). Only eight percent of respondents included data security among these top three priorities. A skilled, educated and adaptable workforce was the priority cited most frequently, at 76 percent. Adequate infrastructure and high employment levels were ranked second and third, respectively.

On a more optimistic note, 72 percent of respondents said they think the world is moving more towards a free, openly accessible Internet, while 25 percent believe Internet access will only become more fragmented.