In an atmosphere of persisting global economic and geo-political uncertainty, we checked in with 142 Banking CEOs from across the globe, to better understand their priorities, and the challenges and opportunities their businesses are presently facing. While this cohort of banking leaders acknowledged that significant headwinds continue to influence the global economy, with a corresponding impact on the financial wellbeing of their clients, they expressed confidence in the growth of their industry and organisations over the next three years. While these CEOs remain vigilant to the disruptive forces and risks on the horizon, they showed confidence in their ability to weather current conditions and move forward with important investments in talent, technology, ESG and inorganic growth that will provide a clear return on investment.
In addition, their perspectives on issues such as climate transition, M&A, generative AI, cyber-security and hybrid work models reveal that, while much progress has been made to strengthen and transform their organisations, they believe that considerable effort remains to achieve readiness for a greatly changing world.
Reflecting on the overarching viewpoints and priorities of banking CEOs in 2023, several clear themes have emerged.
Banking leaders maintain a positive outlook for the next three years with an underlying confidence in their growth momentum for their organisation and an emphasis on digitalisation and talent retention. With a strong appetite for M&A, if the right conditions arise, most are prioritising expansion of their workforce skills and capabilities. And, in an admittedly more complex operating environment, CEOs are favoring a more collaborative and shared approach to leadership.
With most stakeholders now expecting companies to have an ESG strategy embedded into their business models, bank CEOs appreciate the importance of investing to achieve their stated ESG and net-zero commitments, particularly in the areas of climate change and Diversity & Inclusion. Many are investing now to deeply hard-wire ESG across their business, to go beyond compliance demands and reap a longer-term return on investment.
As banking leaders recognise the need to welcome more diverse talent, develop and retain specialised skills, and model values-based work cultures, their acceptance of hybrid work models is evolving, although they do want to encourage greater in-office work to help foster team cultures, communication and collaboration.
Survey participants expressed a strong enthusiasm for the benefits of generative AI and are prioritising investment in these technologies. While they are highly attuned to the challenges that arise in tandem with technology adoption, including the increased risk and frequency of harmful cyber-attacks, they expect a clear return on these investments and recognise the need to fortify their institutional safeguards.