PwC Report: “30% of CEOs predict more than one crisis to confront in next three years”

Businesses are being confronted with crises more often than might be expected and, with CEOs anticipating even more crisis events in the future, it’s no longer a matter of ‘If’ such events will hit, but rather ‘When’ they’re going to do so. That’s according to PwC’s new Pulse Survey of business leaders.

While two-thirds (65%) of the CEOs interviewed say they experienced at least one crisis in the past three years, over half have gone through two or more and 15% state that they’ve been hit by five or more crises in that time. Looking ahead, CEOs predict at least one crisis in the next three years, suggesting that managing crises may well become a ‘new normal’ for businesses.

Unpredictable and uncertain times are having a big impact on the types and frequency of crises companies are experiencing. While global economic uncertainty is seen as the biggest threat, concerns over increased regulation also loom large in CEOs’ minds with exchange rate volatility and geopolitical upheaval adding to the uncertainty.

Melanie Butler, UK partner and Global Crisis Centre leader at PwC, informed Risk UK: “Often, a crisis isn’t isolated and contained, and neither is it fleeting. Some crises are anticipated, some unlikely and some are simply impossible to foresee. Our findings suggest that crisis management is very much on the CEOs’ agenda because they’re already dealing with crises and believe they will continue to deal with them on a regular basis. It’s clear that, for the foreseeable future, the only certainty is uncertainty underpinned by continued geopolitical turmoil, sluggish global growth and fluctuating currencies.”

An overwhelming majority of the CEOs interviewed (91% of them, in fact) say they’re in charge when a crisis hits. However, with 65% feeling most vulnerable about their ability to gather information quickly and accurately during a crisis and over half (57%) feeling vulnerable because of an out-of-date business continuity plan, this suggests that businesses don’t always have a developed and clearly communicated crisis response plan in place.

Indeed, only a fifth (21%) of CEOs are planning to start a programme to address the threats within the 12 months, while 25% haven’t started a programme and neither do they intend to do so at present.

“The certainty that so many CEOs say they are in charge during a crisis is a key element of strong leadership,” continued Butler. “It needs to be supported by a strategy, a clear plan and a structure to first tackle then recover from the crisis. If the rest of the business is unclear how they should perform at a time of serious uncertainty then the CEO can quickly find themselves isolated, undermined and exposed. 38% feel there’s a lack of clarity when it comes to the responsibilities of the management team and individual teams taking independent decisions.”

In conclusion, Butler observed: “Crisis planning is critical to help organisations prepare for, recover from and respond to crises. Having a battle-tested crisis plan in place that’s ready to operate and aligned with the organisation’s purpose and value is key.”

Having a crisis plan to hand can also help companies turn crises to their advantage. That may seem counter-intuitive, but according to the responses of CEOs, 39% of them say their ability to manage a crisis well has actually contributed to revenue growth, while a further 44% firmly believe that a well-managed crisis hasn’t had a negative impact on their top-line growth.

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About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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