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OPINION: Agile or irrelevant – redefining resilience

KPMG report outlines concerns of company CEOs
Laurie Bissonette, FCPA, FCA, is a Partner with KPMG Enterprise

There are some changes in the concerns CEOs have this year from last – but I bet you’re not surprised. How many of yours are the same?

KPMG recently released the 2019 Canadian CEO Outlook, which surveyed 1,300 CEOs of large companies from around the world, including 75 in Canada, to get their views on the highest-priority opportunities and most daunting challenges they and their businesses face. 

Interestingly, both Canadian and global CEOs told KPMG that the environment, territorialism and disruptive technologies were their top three concerns. For Canadian companies, lack of consensus on environmental issues weighs heavily given our disproportionate dependence on the resource sector. And while nearly a third of our GDP is tied to exports, growing trade differences between Canada’s two largest trade partners raises concerns about the ongoing health of our economy. While our leaders are carefully watching how these national and geopolitical issues pan out, they are putting their focus on technology.

To that end, transformation and disruption have been recurring themes in previous CEO Outlooks. This year is no exception. CEOs with every industry are acutely aware of the new technologies, competitors and workforce trends at their doorstep and many are making agility and innovation their priority. Canadian CEOs are no different, although their current strategies and concerns reveal room to grow before they can lead their international peers.

A few interesting findings from the 2019 Canadian CEO Outlook:

  • only 69 per cent of Canadian CEOs want to be disruptors in their market, compared to 96 per cent just one year earlier;
  • 54 per cent of Canadian leaders view cyber-security as a significant risk, compared to only seven per cent in 2018;
  • most Canadian organizations (63 per cent) say their inability to find the workers they need is negatively impacting growth;
  • economic and political uncertainties have driven a third of Canadian CEOs to pursue strategic alliances with third parties as their top growth strategy over mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and organic growth; and
  • 75 per cent of Canadian CEOs agree there is a higher need to ‘act with agility.’

The 2019 Canadian CEO Outlook reveals a country of big thinkers and even bigger ambitions. It also indicates that Canadian organizations are at different stages in their journey than their global peers. Chalk it up to less experience with new technologies or the cautious ‘Canadian way,’ but Canada has been slow to catch up to the new digital ‘normal.’ We are on our way, but now is no time to put our investments, workforce initiatives and innovation strategies on cruise control. 

Drive deeper into the key themes from this report and learn about the biggest issues impacting Canadian business here:

Laurie Bissonette, FCPA, FCA, is a Partner with KPMG Enterprise™. She can be reached at 705-669-2521 or