Looking ahead with caution

What’s on the mind of CEOs in Romania and Central and Eastern Europe?

PwC's 22nd CEO Survey


of CEOs in Romania believe global economic growth will decline


of CEOs in Romania are concerned about changing workforce demographics


of CEOs in Romania consider that Artificial Intelligence will significantly change the way they do business in the next 5 years

Escalating trade tension, heightened protectionism and the uncertain impact of public policy inherently cause the CEOs’ confidence and willingness to invest or take risks to drop. 

Uncertainty around public policy, trade conflicts and protectionism have replaced, in the top ten threats to the organisations’ growth, terrorism, climate change and the increasing tax burden, in the eyes of the CEOs worldwide who are extremely concerned with these aspects. However, over-regulation, availability of key skills, cyber threats and geopolitical uncertainty remain, just like in recent years, at the top end of the concern list. As with our previous surveys, over-regulation ranks first in the top threats.

Just like a year ago, 51% of the CEOs in Central and Eastern Europe say they are extremely concerned about the availability of key skills. Their counterparts in Romania share their opinion, almost to the same extent. Populist governmental policies promoted by political regimes in several Central and Eastern Europe countries are gaining momentum and becoming an immediate concern for CEOs. Governments are very active in pulling the available economic levers, causing business executives to be more cautious and focus more on what is under their control. Uncertainty around public policy is among the top three threats CEOs are extremely concerned about, not only in Central and Eastern Europe, but also in the majority of the regions across the world. 

CEOs in Romania are more concerned this year than their counterparts worldwide and in the region about the large number of potential threats to growth prospects. Inadequate infrastructure is the number one concern, as in 2018, with almost two-thirds (62%) of executives in Romania saying they are extremely concerned. The same percentage appears this year when it comes to uncertainty about public policy. The next two challenges, in the opinion of around half of the respondents in Romania, have to do with the workforce – the availability of people with key skills (50%) and the change in the workforce demographics (47%). Business executives in Romania are focusing their attention on ways for their companies to adjust to rising populism, which ranks last in the top five potential threats.  


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Confronted with the new realities (populism, protectionism, labour market and trade barriers), organisations are looking inward and mainly relying on internal resources to drive revenue growth over the next 12 months. Around three quarters of CEOs are focusing on operational efficiency, and a similar percentage on organic growth. Around three out of every five business executives worldwide and in Central and Eastern Europe are planning the launch of new products and services. The percentage of their counterparts in Romania planning to launch such initiatives to drive revenue growth is substantially lower (43%).  

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Message from Ionuț Simion, Country Managing Partner

“Although CEOs are less optimistic than they were a year ago, they still trust their organisations’ capacity for revenue growth. There is promise for business growth, but, in order for this to happen, a stable and predictable economic environment is needed. These two features of a healthy economy are essential to business executives in their planning for growth. To achieve this, constant dialogue between the business community and decision-makers on economic and fiscal policy is crucial to ensuring firm foundations for businesses to grow in Romania and to carry on their investment programmes.”

CEE findings

Caution prevails

Overall, the CEOs’ views on global economic growth are more polarised this year. The general trend compared to last year’s survey is business executives’ growing pessimism about global economic growth prospects.

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The race for talent

As they turn to within their organisations to find growth opportunities, CEOs say they find shortcomings in their own capabilities, and many struggle to extract value from the data they have and to get employees with analytical skills.

In the age of technology, information rules. CEOs admit to struggling to get and manage the information they need for decision-making, and the reason is often the capability of their own organisations to generate adequate data. The information gap is still substantial, despite the massive investments made in the IT infrastructure over the years. Business leaders point to the fact that they still do not get enough of the relevant information they need to make major decisions about the stability and long-term success of their businesses.  

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How close the future is

To unleash the internal growth potential of their organisations, CEOs pay particular attention to developing the emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the business potential of the successful use of these technologies. Of course, opinions are divided on how business executives see the impact of AI on society and on the role governments should play in developing Artificial Intelligence.

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Artificial Intelligence, together with the information gap - the gap between the data CEOs need for decision-making purposes and what they get – and the lack of talented employees specialising in data analytics are two of the main topics covered by the 22nd PwC Global CEO Survey. The survey was conducted on a sample of almost 1,400 CEOs from 91 countries and launched at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The two topics on the agenda of business executives around the world bring up a number of challenges and opportunities, which we invite you to explore in this report.

Nick Kós, Chief Executive Officer, PwC Central and Eastern Europe

Reality check

Our preceding survey had shown a record surge in the optimism levels of CEOs in Central and Eastern Europe in terms of global economy growth prospects. This year, on the contrary, a record slump in their pessimism level is apparent, with the prevailing feeling being caution against the backdrop of growing uncertainty. This year also shows a drop in the confidence of the CEOs in the region in their organisations’ prospects for revenue growth in the short- (12 months) and medium-term (three years). Although there are still more CEOs who expect global growth to improve, 2019’s slowdown signs should not be underestimated. The growing pessimism of CEOs in our region is not surprising. Some economists project a growth-rate slowdown and have adjusted downwards their 2019 forecasts. Tension in international trade, unpredictable geopolitical landscape and stricter monetary and fiscal policies cause a cautious view of the economic growth prospects. Nationalist sentiments are a growing trend not only in Central and Eastern Europe, but across the world, while populist politics have a larger influence over economic policies.

Look inside-out for growth

This year, the threats CEOs in the region see as pressing mainly have to do with the ease of doing business in the markets where they operate – over-regulation, public policy uncertainty, availability of key skills, exchange rate volatility or increasing tax burden. In this context, business executives focus more inside their own organisations for growth opportunities. When asked to name the most attractive foreign markets in terms of investments, CEOs narrow down their options and express ever-greater uncertainty, as revenue growth and business expansion opportunities are more associated with their domestic market.

Mind the information and skills gaps

While showing particular interest in what is within their control inside their own organisations, CEOs in our region are striving to narrow the digital skills gap. This is because, despite massive investments in the IT infrastructure, there is still a sizeable gap between the useful data CEOs need for decision-making and what they actually get. Businesses are trying to translate the plethora of available data into information that is relevant for a better and faster decision-making process, which relies not only on experiences and gut feeling, but also on receiving adequate, comprehensive data in real time. In their approach, organisations are faced with the lack of talent specialising in integrating and extracting value out of big data. Having employees with such analytical skills is an absolute must for businesses in order to implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) initiatives – a topic on the future impact of which there is wide consensus among the CEOs in Central and Eastern Europe. In other words, bridging the two gaps – information gap and analytical skills gap – is essential to enable exploration of the AI wealth of opportunities.

Contact us

Ionut Simion

Country Managing Partner, Romania

Cristian Tomescu

Manager, Marketing and Business Development , Romania

Tel: +40 21 225 3547

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