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America’s CEOs are feeling good, KPMG survey finds

David Brancaccio and Meredith Garretson Apr 11, 2024
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72% of CEOs surveyed anticipate modest or significantly increased hiring in the next year, according to a new KPMG survey. fizkes/Getty Images

America’s CEOs are feeling good, KPMG survey finds

David Brancaccio and Meredith Garretson Apr 11, 2024
Heard on:
72% of CEOs surveyed anticipate modest or significantly increased hiring in the next year, according to a new KPMG survey. fizkes/Getty Images
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Economic headwinds — if you’re a CEO today, there are plenty of them. High interest rates are one source of worry and consternation. Then there’s also artificial intelligence and the looming anxiety surrounding elections this year.

But still, if the last four years have taught business leaders anything, it’s that resilience in the name of the game. And in spite of all the causes for concern, it turns out that American business leaders are still feeling pretty darn confident, both for their individual businesses and the broader U.S. economy.

The audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG is out with its annual CEO outlook survey, which includes data from 100 CEOs who head up large companies in the U.S. KPMG’s U.S. CEO Paul Knopp joined “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio to dig into the survey’s findings.

David Brancaccio: So not a, what my Latin teacher would have called a “plebiscite” but a survey of captains of business. As a CEO reading data from the other CEOs, what stood out for you?

Paul Knopp: Well, certainly the strong confidence and growth prospects for the businesses that these CEOs run, along with their confidence in the U.S. economy, continues to stand out in the face of a lot of uncertainties and risks that we’re looking at right now. And the fact that 72% of CEOs, David, said that they’re going to be modestly or significantly increasing hiring over the next 12 months, I think, was really promising news. You know, the information around generative AI that’s presented by this survey, the confidence they have in that technology and how it’s going to help them be more efficient in the future, along with driving value in their businesses, is really interesting too.

Brancaccio: I mean, it says, “responsible use of AI.” They’re not scared at the same time?

Knopp: Well, there’s certainly a lot of risk with generative AI. And you know, you think about cyberevents, you think about hallucinations, misinformation, disinformation — that’s all top of mind for business leaders. At the same time, they recognize it’s a transformative technology, and it’s going to drive real value for customers. It’s going to upskill their employees. It’s going to give them the opportunity to create new business models, new revenue streams and certainly make their operations more efficient. So [there’s] a lot of promise when it comes to generative AI for the long term.

Brancaccio: On the topic of environmental, social and governance initiatives that companies wrestle with, ESG, I mean, these were often cited in the data here as something that takes up some mindshare of CEOs. It looks like many expect to see returns on these investments.

Knopp: Absolutely. So CEOs are trying to ensure that they’re integrating ESG measures into their business strategies to ensure that they make their operations more efficient, and they attract more customer and employee loyalty, so CEOs continue to see sustainability as really important to their future.

Brancaccio: And back to this idea of [an] enormous amount of confidence among the CEOs in such an uncertain world. That is surprising. I mean, look in the U.S., we have a big election. India, a massive economy, has a big election coming up in a matter of weeks. I think in the U.K. there are other elections. That’s just mentioning a few of the uncertainties, right?

Knopp: Well, there are a lot of concerns out there, but I think CEOs have also acknowledged that, over the last four years, there have been a lot of risks and uncertainties and they’ve navigated those well. Businesses have been very resilient. So I think CEOs are feeling very comfortable putting together playbooks to address almost any risk that’s out there today.

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