Global CEO confidence is back at pre-pandemic levels, and optimistic executives are looking at M&A, strategic alliances and sustainability measures to help transform their business, according to a new KPMG survey.

At the same time, executives are sounding the alarm for what they see as significant threats to growth, including cybersecurity, climate change and supply chain risks.

Approximately 60 percent of respondents said they’re confident about the global economy’s growth prospects over the next three years, up from 42 percent in KPMG’s last survey earlier in 2021.

With that optimism in place, CEOs are looking ahead at measures to grow and transform their businesses, and M&A activity is particularly high on their lists. Nearly 70 percent said they are looking at M&As, joint ventures and strategic alliances to fuel growth in the coming months. About 87 percent of global leaders plan to make acquisitions over the next three years.

Additionally, 30 percent of CEOs plan to invest more than 10 percent of their revenues toward sustainability measures and programs in the next three years.

CEOS see obstacles ahead, too. Cybersecurity climate change and supply chain risks are ranked as top challenges to growth. Cyber was a #5 ranked risk a year ago and supply changes were #2.

Other CEO responses from the survey:

  • 21 percent of CEOS say there are planning to downsize or already have downsized, versus nearly 70 percent in August 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic’s first wave.
  • 756 percent of CEOs believe pressure put on public finances by the pandemic response has made it more urgent for multilateral cooperation on the global tax system.
  • 77 percent of global executives believe government stimulus will be necessary to help business reach net zero emissions.

The KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook surveyed more than 1,300 global CEOs about their strategies and outlook over a 3-year horizon. All respondents have an annual revenue of more than $500 million, and a third of the companies have more than $10 billion in annual revenue. Surveys were conducted from June 29 to Aug. 6 in 11 markets (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, U.K. and the U.S.)

Eleven industry sectors took part in the survey: insurance, asset management, automotive, banking, consumer and retail, energy, infrastructure, life sciences, manufacturing, technology and telecommunications.

Source: KPMG