C-suite optimistic for a year of transformation, but say more regulation and ethical considerations needed

22 February 2024: Forvis Mazars, the international audit, tax and advisory firm, today releases its latest C-suite barometer: outlook 2024. Optimism and confidence are at their highest recorded by the Forvis Mazars C-suite barometer. Business has its eyes firmly set on a positive future, and leaders are looking to expand and grow with confidence.

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  • Optimism hits a record high – 89% increased revenues vs the previous year and 94% have a positive outlook for growth expected in 2024, eight points up from last year.
  • Economic factors, including high inflation and cost of living (37%), and energy prices (33%) are two of the top external trends impacting businesses most in the coming year. The emergence of new technology (33%) is also expected to impact significantly and businesses are confident they’re prepared for this.  
  • The proportion of businesses boosting investment, averaged across all business activities, increased to 66% (up 3 points on last year), and 44% are “very confident” they can manage external trends, up 6 points from last year.  
  • Transformation through IT or emerging technology is the top strategic priority for leaders for the second year running – yet three quarters of those already using generative AI in their organisation say they have ethical concerns and 95% overall say more regulatory guidance is needed.  
  • International expansion increases in importance with leaders, from joint fifth to the number two spot alongside new or revised sustainability and talent strategies, second only to technology transformation as the biggest strategic priority for the coming 3-5 years (35%).  
  • There’s a greater commitment shown by leaders to sustainability with more organisations reporting on their impact and more organisations budgeting costs specifically for ESG reporting. Yet, over a third of leaders (37%) say they lack in-house expertise when it comes to data and reporting on human rights – up 10 points on last year.  
Mark Kennedy

The high levels of optimism and renewed confidence among our respondents provide a good indicator of how businesses are likely to progress this year. In the face of volatility, the C-suite has demonstrated resilience and agility enabling them to continue investment and transform business while addressing the challenges and opportunities of emerging technology, expansion plans and the ESG agenda, setting their businesses up for sustainable growth. In what may be a bounce forward year for businesses, there will still be tough decisions to make, yet we can see an increasing consciousness and confidence in the priority areas that will secure sustainable economic growth in the global economy.

Mark Kennedy Partner and member of the Mazars Group Executive Board

Each year Forvis Mazars gathers the views of executives from all over the world. The 2024 outlook delivers insight into the market trends and transformations expected to impact companies, the strategic priorities on the C-suite’s agenda, the challenges and opportunities influencing growth, with in-depth insights to help prepare for the year ahead.   

Transformation in a digital world  

Transforming company IT remains top of the agenda for business leaders, with one third (32%) naming it a top strategic priority.  

The emergence of new technologies is expected to have a big impact on business, but most C-suite executives (87%) say they are confident their business is prepared. In terms of regulating new technology, 95% of leaders believe it’s essential or important to have more regulation nationally or internationally when it comes to controlling generative AI.   

This demand for more regulation and control, however, has not impacted the appetite from leaders, with 85% believing that generative AI will have an impact on their organisation and three-quarters say they’re already using generative AI internally and/or for products/services. Importantly, three quarters of those already using AI express ethical considerations about the technology. Half expect it to replace some jobs in their organisation and 57% of those say it’s already happening or will within the next year.  

The rise in international expansion as a strategic priority   

With a quarter of C-suite executives surveyed naming international expansion as one of their strategic priorities, this is the first year it’s featured in our top three. Organic growth is expected to be an important driver of expansion in 2024 with 53% of leaders.  

Top destinations named for international expansion are China, Germany and the US, with France and the UK still emerging strong. Canada also features in the top destinations where businesses plan to expand into in 2024, alongside Brazil.    

Recognising greater sustainability commitments  

The wave of sustainability expectations continues across the business world. Nearly three quarters (71%) of organisations produce a sustainability report and more are factoring this into budget planning (72%) – the highest recorded to date for both in the firm’s annual C-suite barometer.  

Data capture and quality is still the top challenge, but understanding regulation is next on the list having leapt from 21% last year to 31% this year. The arrival of new regulations, such as the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, also appear to be having an impact as the challenge of understanding regulation is felt most in Europe with 35% of executives.   

Human rights is the area of sustainability reporting that shows the biggest increase among respondents confirming challenges with data capture and quality. It’s also clear that acceptance is growing in the number of leaders recognising human rights as an area they lack in-house expertise – up from 27% to 37% this year. 

The new ‘laws’ of talent attraction  

Competition in the market for talent is set to continue. Almost half of C-suite executives accept that it’s difficult to get people through the door in the first place with 44% saying they struggle to hire talent into their organisation and 30% of those confirming it’s most challenging to hire at senior executive level. As a potential risk in cultivating the next generation of C-suite leaders, executives are prioritising new or revised strategies, with more globally believing learning and development opportunities are essential to attracting the best people which will, in turn, contribute to the long-term growth of their business.      

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About the study   

The C-suite barometer outlook 2024: building global ambition – examines the views, challenges, and strategic priorities of today’s c-suite leaders around the world, defined as executives at for-profit organisations with annual revenues of $1m+. Independent opinion research was conducted in late 2023 with around 800 executives across over 30 countries. Respondents were based in Australia, Austria, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Singapore, Switzerland, the UAE, the UK, and the US.  

About Forvis Mazars   

Forvis Mazars is a leading global professional services network operating under a single brand with just two members: Forvis Mazars, LLP in the United States and Forvis Mazars Group SC, an internationally integrated partnership operating in over 100 countries and territories. Both members share a commitment to providing an unmatched client experience, delivering audit & assurance, tax, advisory and consulting services across the globe.

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Find out more at forvismazars.com