Cyber threats & skills gap are the top-most concerns shared by UK CEOs

Amid a surge in optimism among UK CEOs about growth prospects in the near future despite Brexit's uncertainty, the existing skills gap and cyber threats continue to be the top two concerns shared by CEOs across the board.

87% UK CEOs view the cyber threat to their businesses as the top-most concern this year at a time when they are rushing to prepare their businesses for GDPR which will come into effect on May 25.

The latest annual global CEO survey by PwC has thrown up interesting results as far as the UK is concerned. Even though many are wary of the uncertainty posed by Brexit as well as conflicting statements being issued by MPs about the subject, a majority of UK CEOs are, at present, quite optimistic about their organisation’s growth prospects in the near term.

As many as 96% UK CEOs are also quite confident about increasing their annual revenues in the next three years, despite uncertainty over the outcome of trade negotiations with the European Union.

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However, despite the euphoria, UK CEOS also have to worry about things that may hurt their businesses' prospects in the near term. Out of all concerns shared by CEOs, the existing skills gap and cyber threats continue to be the top two concerns shared by them across the board. At the same time, CEOs are also concerned about geopolitical uncertainty and over-regulation.

'Responses from this years’ CEO survey suggest that the security breaches in 2017 have really heightened awareness amongst UK CEOs to the devastating impacts a cyber attack can have to an organisation, and the potential to be 'collateral damage' to wider threat,' says Richard Horne, cyber security partner at PwC.

'The challenge of protecting organisations in today's digital world is far bigger than just building security controls. It requires the whole organisation to respond, and for CEOs to lead the way in redesigning how organisations are structured and operated, to be securable,' he adds.

As far as the existing skills gap is concerned, 83% UK CEOs want to ensure they can attract and develop the right talent in the coming days to maintain their organisations' growth prospects. They are either doing this by improving compensation and benefit packages or by upskilling existing employees. 63% CEOs are either using or plan on using apprenticeships and internships to grow their workforce, while developing their skills at the same time.

At the same time, while 62% of UK CEOs don’t believe they currently have sufficient digital skills amongst their workforce, 53% are concerned about the availability of skills more generally.

'Business and Government have the opportunity to work together to help current and future employees develop skills that keep pace with technological change. Creating the next generation of skilled workers as well as attracting and retaining tech talent will be essential in a post-Brexit world,' says Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner of PwC.

'The more that UK CEOs take the lead and innovate, the greater the likelihood that the UK will maintain its competitive position on the international stage,' he adds.