Cyber security, skills and over-regulation are key concerns.

New Zealand chief executives are growing more gloomy about the state of the global economy but most are confident about growing their companies this year, according to the latest PwC New Zealand CEO survey.

The annual survey interviewed 47 chief executives across a range of companies and found 40 per cent of respondents were "very confident" about their company's growth in the coming year. An additional 51 per cent were "somewhat confident".

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PwC New Zealand chief executive Bruce Hassall said the outlook for New Zealand was divided, but more confident than it appeared.


"Given the wide-ranging uncertainties CEOs are facing - cyber security, over-regulation, geopolitical stability - it's easy to see why they're divided about whether there are more threats or opportunities today," Hassall said. "Kiwi organisations are remaining optimistic about their own growth prospects despite the possibility of a stagnant or declining global economy."

Hassall said a well-defined purpose was becoming increasingly important for New Zealand companies, reflecting the fast changing world, boosted by the impact of technology and digital.

Fifty-five per cent of New Zealand executives said there were more opportunities for growth than three years ago, but the global outlook was less positive. Only 23 per cent of those surveyed believed the global economy would improve this year, down from last year's 47 per cent. More than half thought it would stay the same.

Internationally, 39 per cent of executives said the US was among their top three growth markets compared with 34 per cent for China, 19 per cent for Germany, 11 per cent for the UK and 8 per cent for Brazil. Hassall said economic uncertainty meant it was difficult to pin down where growth would come from.

"China's economic rebalancing and the fragility of its debt-laden local government and private sector continues to concern investors and rattle entire industries," Hassall said. "However, as China slows down overall, the composition of the growth is shifting from an infrastructure-driven economy to consumer spending of the middle rising class, which could bode well for New Zealand's agrisector."

Availability of skilled talent again topped the list of concerns for chief executives in New Zealand. This was a concern for 85 per cent of CEOs compared with 84 per cent last year. The global average was 74 per cent.

Nearly 70 per cent of chief executives said they wanted the government to deliver a skilled, educated and adaptable workforce. The speed of technology change was also highlighted as an issue by 70 per cent of those surveyed, but the biggest growth in concern was in the cybersecurity and data security sector, jumping from 66 per cent last year to 77 per cent this year.

"This year's findings suggest that chief executives are still concerned about the speed of technological change, but are perhaps gaining confidence - except in the area of cyber security," Hassall said. "While 70 per cent of New Zealand respondents still view the speed of technology change as a business threat, it has dropped from the second highest threat last year to now rank fifth. In the meantime, cyber security is now the second highest threat."

Overall, Hassall said chief executives understood that building a business that was ready for the more complex global marketplace of the future was a priority.

Source: PwC 19th Annual Global CEO Survey, New Zealand respondents.