Canada’s Faith in Meaningful Tech Disruption Leads the World

“Confidence is up in Canadian boardrooms.”

Canadian CEOs and leaders are far more enthusiastic when it comes to harnessing tech that can disrupt and grow their businesses when compared to other executives across the globe, according to a new study from KPMG.

The 2018 Global CEO Outlook surveyed 1,300 company leaders from around the world (including 50 from Canada spread across 11 industries) and found that 96 per cent of Canadian CEOs plan to be the disruptors and not the disrupted. This is compared to 54 per cent of global CEOs. Another area Canadian company leaders excel in relates to the confidence of domestic growth: 94 per cent of CEOs in Canada believe their country will continue to grow, compared to 74 per cent of global business leaders.

“Despite much debate about the potential trade headwinds facing the country, Canadian CEOs have a positive outlook for their own businesses and our economy as a whole,” says Benjie Thomas, a managing partner for KPMG Canada. “In fact, business leaders in Canada are feeling an unprecedented level of confidence that has them aggressively ready to take on the challenges and opportunities facing their companies.”

The report goes on to look at a host of other issues pertaining to how companies will aim to grow over the next years. This includes in-depth looks at the prevalence of AI and cybersecurity measures as well as indicators that show just how businesses believe they will scale.

One interesting aspect to look at is where Canadian CEOs want to expand. Just under three-quarters of surveyed CEOs (72 per cent) say they want to prioritize expansion into emerging markets rather than developed ones. The top priorities seem to be Central and Southern America, as shown below.

Canadian CEO's targeted areas for growth.
Canadian CEO’s targeted areas for growth compared to global CEOs.

“This is probably not surprising,” writes Jonathan Kallner, a national sales lead for KPMG Canada. “Most of the big Canadian banks already have a strong presence in these markets which facilitates the flow of capital and revenues between the North and South and adds a level of confidence for investors.”

AI, as usual, is a big focus for how companies will grow in an increasingly competitive and globalized economy. About 22 per cent of Canadian CEOs already use AI to automate some of their processes, compared to 12 per cent of global CEOs, while Canada is roughly in line with the rest of the world (66 per cent to 62 per cent, respectively) in terms of thinking that AI will create more jobs than it replaces.

Still though, some Canadian companies are unsure on what digital transformation really means, and how long it will take to bring a positive impact to their company. This is shown below, and also illustrated in the fact that only 26 per cent of Canadian CEOs are hiring new skills regardless of future growth targets as compared to 48 per cent of global CEOs.

KPMG CEOs 2018

“While it can be a challenge to run parallel processes to transform the digital and non-digital aspects of your business, long-term success depends on both,” writes Kallner. “Technology is not a ‘one-time’ event and innovation never stops so companies that continually work to push the boundaries in these areas are poised to lead the transformation race.”

Half of the 50 Canadian CEOs who responded run companies with annual revenues between $1 billion and $9.99 billion. Approximately 28 per cent have companies earning more than $10 billion and 22 per cent earning between $500 million and $999 million. Of the respondents, 62 per cent have held their position between four and nine years.