The pandemic has no doubt accelerated the adoption of digital and as a result, majority of Singapore and Malaysia CEOs (91%) are prioritising long-term investments in digital transformation over the next three years.
According to PwC's 24th Annual Global CEO Survey which targeted 5,050 chief executives in January and February this year, 91% of Singapore CEOs are also charting out longer term investment plans to safeguard against cyberattacks. Meanwhile, 54% said they will increase investment for advertising and brand building, while 34% of CEOs in Singapore specified that their investment in this area will remain unchanged.
Most CEOs in Singapore (84%) are also investing in increasing cost efficiencies, while 69% of them plan to allocate funds for environment, social and governance initiatives. On the other hand, PwC noted a less visible surge in the adoption of advanced analytics and AI to inform decision-making. It added that companies on the leading edge are more deeply embedding AI in customer-focused applications, back-office applications, and risk management.
Similarly, 56% of CEOs in Malaysia plan to increase their investments in digital transformation by 10% or more, while 35% plan to increase it by between 3% to 9%. At the same time, more than a third of Malaysian CEOs (38%) are planning to increase investments in cyber security and data privacy by 10% or more. On the advertising and brand building front, 46% indicated they will increase investments moderately while 29% indicated no change for its advertising investments. Only 6% plan to double down on advertising investments by more than 10%.
As Malaysia emerges from the recent Movement Control Order, the top two growth drivers for CEOs are seeking operational efficiencies (85%) and launching a new product or service (67%). PwC found that the priority they place in these strategies surpass the global average (77% and 56% respectively).
Although efficiency programmes can be attractive due to their incremental nature and ability to deliver short-term results, PwC said businesses should be thinking about the long-term sustainability and scalability of their strategies to withstand future shocks.
At the same time, several Malaysian CEOs are also prioritising strategic alliances (63% versus 35% globally). This trend, however, has been on the rise over the past few years, and PwC noted that bringing expertise and value to the table could be part of businesses' pandemic recovery plan.
Upskilling and talent a top priority for Singapore and Malaysia CEOs
Singapore CEOs also aim to boost their organisation’s competitiveness through digital investments in the workforce, while 55% aim to focus on productivity through technology and automation. When asked to prioritise societal outcomes that businesses should help deliver, the majority of Singapore CEOs (64%) listed the creation of a skilled, educated and adaptable workforce as their top priority, followed by good health and well being of the workforce (57%). Meanwhile, more than three out of five CEOs are placing focus on long term investments for leadership and talent development.
Their Malaysian counterparts are also of the view that building a skilled, educated and adaptable workforce should be the top priority for both government (73%) and businesses (73%).
However, PwC said an upskilling programme is only as good as its implementation and strength of the company's support. While Malaysian employees have a desire to upskill, the survey found that only 38% are given several opportunities by their current employer to improve their digital skills outside their normal duties.
"To expect employees to become adept at using a tool with little to no training is to set them up for failure, which could ultimately affect team morale and performance, not to mention incur additional financial and time costs to fix issues that arise," PwC said.
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