Irish CEOs more concerned than ever about cyberthreats

11 Mar 2021

Image: © KC2525/

While confidence has returned for leaders globally, the pandemic, cyberthreats and the climate crisis are still major concerns, according to the latest PwC survey.

CEOs are more concerned this year about threats such as cybercrime, economic uncertainty and the climate crisis.

That’s according to PwC’s CEO 2021 survey, which involved more than 5,000 CEOs from around the world including 153 in Ireland. The survey said that the sheer magnitude of concern about most threats to businesses has increased compared to last year.

While the Covid-19 pandemic is the greatest concern, 90pc of Irish business leaders are also worried about cyberthreats, which has shot up from 78pc last year. Additionally, the concerns that Irish CEOs have around misinformation have almost doubled.

The increase in concern about these threats coincides with many businesses having pivoted to online and remote working in the last year, which is only set to continue in 2021. Despite this concern, only 27pc of respondents are planning double-digit investment in cybersecurity and data privacy in the next three years.

In fact, a PwC CIO survey last July signalled a reluctance to invest in this area, suggesting that IT investment could fall by more than 20pc in years ahead.

Another top concern, climate change and environmental damage, is at a record high at 78pc, up from 56pc in 2019. However, almost 70pc of respondents are not factoring the climate emergency into their strategic risk management.

Ciarán Kelly, advisory leader at PwC Ireland, said more needs to be done to tackle some of these challenges head on. “Even more significant investment is needed in key areas such as risk management, cybersecurity and digital to keep pace with global peers,” he said.

“To achieve the kind of change that’s needed, CEOs will need to think differently and constantly evaluate their decisions and actions against broader societal impacts. In so doing, they’ll set the course that builds trust and delivers sustained outcomes for shareholders, society and our environment.”

Measured optimism

In spite of these concerns, the survey found that confidence has bounced back, with 76pc of global CEOs confident about economic growth.

Confidence among Irish CEOs has also returned, with 49pc of respondents in Ireland feeling favourable about the outlook for the country’s economy. This is up from an almost record low of 16pc last year.

Additionally, 58pc of Irish leaders plan to increase their workforce this year, compared to 39pc last year. However, the survey suggested that Irish CEOs are more concerned about skills shortages than their global counterparts for the eighth year in a row.

Feargal O’Rourke, managing partner at PwC Ireland, said it isn’t surprising that Irish CEOs are not as confident as their global counterparts considering the complexities that come with Brexit.

“Having endured one of the most turbulent times in history, Irish CEOs are focused on growth and operational resilience. They realise that this growth won’t happen without having the right people with the right skills,” he said.

“A key consideration will also be how to continue adapting their businesses and deliver sustained outcomes in this rapidly changing external environment. Organisations that get this right will be best placed to come out of the pandemic as strong, resilient and productive businesses, able to withstand future shocks.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic