Global CEOs see a recession coming, yet are optimistic about the global economy over 3-year horizon

More than 8 out of 10 Global and UK CEOs anticipate a recession over the next 12 months with more than half expecting it to be mild and short.

More than 8 out of 10 Global and UK CEOs anticipate a recession over the next 12 months

  • More than 8 out of 10 Global and UK CEOs anticipate a recession over the next 12 months with more than half expecting it to be mild and short
  • Seven out of 10 believe a recession will disrupt anticipated growth
  • However, rising confidence in longer-term growth of the global economy and their own companies’ prospects

The KPMG 2022 CEO Outlook, which asked more than 1,300 CEOs at the world’s largest businesses about their strategies and outlook – including 150 in the UK – revealed that 8 out of 10 Global and UK CEOs are anticipating a recession, and 58 percent of them (62 percent in the UK) expect it to be mild and short.

The survey, conducted over July and August this year, found that 71 percent of the global leaders (79 percent of UK CEOs) predicted it will impact company earnings by up to 10 percent. A strong majority of senior executives also believe that a recession will disrupt anticipated growth (73 percent – 63 percent of UK CEOs) - but three-quarters (76 percent) of global CEOs and 72 percent of UK CEOs have already taken precautionary steps ahead of a looming recession.

Despite those concerns, senior executives also feel markedly more confident about the resilience of the economy over the next 6 months (73 percent – 75 percent in the UK) than they did in February (60 percent), when KPMG surveyed 500 CEOs for its CEO Outlook Pulse survey. Further, 71 percent of leaders (80 percent in the UK) are confident about the global economy's growth prospects over the next 3 years (up from 60 percent in early 2022) and nearly 9 in 10 (85 percent – 73 percent UK) are confident about their organization’s growth over the next 3 years.

Bill Thomas, Global Chairman & CEO, KPMG, said:

“Once-in-a-generation issues — a global pandemic, geopolitical tensions, inflationary pressures and financial difficulties — have come in short succession and taken a toll on the optimism of global CEOs. While it’s unsurprising the economic climate is now the top concern for global business leaders, it’s encouraging to see reasonable levels of confidence among executives in their own companies and their longer-term prospects for growth.

“The events of recent years have created real turbulence for the business community. Our findings should provide some cautious optimism that, in contending with and overcoming these ordeals, executives are more confident in their companies’ resilience and are focused on mitigating some of the very real uncertainties we face today.” 

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Jon Holt, Chief Executive of KPMG in the UK, said:

“Business leaders in the UK are predicting and preparing for an imminent recession. Many are having to make hard choices now to help their businesses weather the volatile conditions they face, with some telling us they are cutting back on important areas such as investing in their workforce and making their business more sustainable. 

“Political uncertainty and changing regulation remain the biggest risks to growth for business leaders and could have a subsequent knock-on effect on their confidence to invest in future. Yet it is positive to see that most of them do see light at the end of the tunnel, have already taken action and feel positive about a future economic recovery.”


Hiring freezes and headcount reductions under heavy consideration for CEOs

With continued economic turmoil, 39 percent of CEOs (43 percent in the UK) said they had already implemented a hiring freeze, and 46 percent were considering downsizing their workforce over the next 6 months (53 percent in the UK). However, the three-year view is more optimistic with only 9 percent of Global CEO and 6 percent of UK CEOs expecting a further reduced headcount.

Uncertainty fueling long-term digital transformation

While current uncertainty is driving CEOs to continue to prioritise digital transformation, 40 percent of businesses (36 percent in the UK) have paused their digital transformation strategies and another 37 percent (36 percent in the UK) plan to take such steps in the next 6 months.

In the longer-term, more than a quarter (28 percent in the UK) believe that advancing digitalization and business connectivity is vital to achieving growth objectives over the next 3 years. Seventy-four percent (67 percent in the UK) also agree that their organization’s digital and ESG strategic investments are inextricably linked.

TABLE: Top 3 current concerns for CEOs




1. Pandemic fatigue or continued uncertainty/restrictions



1. Economic factors (interest rates, anticipated recession, inflation)


2.Economic factors (interest rates, anticipated recession, inflation)


2. Pandemic fatigue or continued uncertainty/restrictions



3.Emerging / disruptive technology


3. Emerging / disruptive technology



Top risks identified by UK CEOs as threats to company growth over the next 3 years, while emerging/disruptive technology and operational risks were top for Global CEOs.

Cyber security no longer corporations’ biggest threat, with more companies prepared for attacks

Cyber security has dropped from the top 5 risks to growth over the past year, with only 6 percent of CEOs (7 percent UK CEOs) naming it as their top risk (17 percent in February 2022). However, the cyber environment is evolving with 77 percent saying their organization views information security as a strategic function and as a potential source of competitive advantage (70 percent of UK CEOs). Geopolitical uncertainty is also raising concerns of corporate cyber-attacks, according to 7 of 10 CEOs (72 percent - 66 percent in the UK).  

Nearly three-quarters of organizations (72 percent - 63 percent in the UK) have a plan to handle ransomware attacks. However, more CEOs recognize that they are under-prepared for a cyber-attack with nearly a quarter (24 percent - 19 percent in the UK) admitting so in 2022, compared to 13 percent in 2021.

Stakeholder pressure increasing accountability in ESG

When asked about their top challenge in communicating ESG performance to stakeholders, nearly one-fifth (17 percent for both Global and UK CEOs) indicated it was stakeholder scepticism around greenwashing, up from 8 percent in 2021. More than one-third (38 percent) of CEOs say their organisations struggle to articulate a compelling ESG story – 42 percent in the UK. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (72 percent Globally and 66 percent of UK CEOs) also believe that stakeholder scrutiny of ESG issues — such as gender equality and climate impacts — will continue to accelerate.

On talent, compared to early 2022, more C-suite executives believe that having the right talent and skills is also key to achieving net zero — or similar — ambitions. Nearly a quarter (22 percent – 21 percent in the UK) say a lack of skills and expertise is hindering the implementation of solutions.

Economic pressure slowing ESG ambitions

Global CEOs recognize the importance of ESG initiatives to their businesses, especially when it comes to improving financial performance and driving growth. In fact, 69 percent of senior executives (84 percent in the UK) noted greater demand from stakeholders for increased reporting and transparency on ESG — 58 percent in 2021.

Nearly half (45 percent – 39 percent of UK CEOs) of CEOs agree that progress on ESG improves corporate financial performance, an increase from 37 percent for both Global and UK CEOs just 1 year ago. However, as economic uncertainty continues, half are pausing or reconsidering their existing or planned ESG efforts in the next 6 months (42 percent in the UK) and 34 percent have already done so (35 percent in the UK).


The full findings of the KPMG CEO Outlook survey include qualitative interviews with the CEOs of: AMP, Bankinter, Fujitsu, Ricoh Europe, Tata Steel and ServiceNow.

To view additional information about the survey please visit You can also follow @KPMG on LinkedIn and Twitter for updates and the conversation with #CEOoutlook.

For press requests, please contact:

Chris Mostyn

Deputy Head of Media Relations


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Amy Greenshields

KPMG International

+1 416 727 1973

Notes to Editors:

About KPMG’s CEO Outlook

The 8th edition of KPMG CEO Outlook, conducted with 1,325 CEOs between 12 July and August 24, 2022, provides unique insight into the mindset, strategies and planning tactics of CEOs not only comparable to pre-pandemic to today, but also from KPMG’s CEO Pulse Survey conducted between 12 January and 9 February, 2022, with 500 CEOs before the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine.

All respondents have annual revenues over US$500M and a third of the companies surveyed have more than US$10B in annual revenue. The survey included leaders from 11 key markets (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, UK and US) and 11 key industry sectors (asset management, automotive, banking, consumer and retail, energy, infrastructure, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, technology, and telecommunications). NOTE: some figures may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.

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