Post-Brexit UK is a more important growth prospect to global CEOs

PwC 24th Annual CEO Survey

It’s been a year since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic which has resulted in an entire year of navigating new ways of working and living. Added to which, during this time, the UK was also tackling the uncertainty around Brexit. The signing of the EU trade agreement has resulted in a more clear and stable political landscape, helping business leaders make decisions with confidence.

Coinciding with this anniversary, on 11 March, PwC launched its global  24th Annual CEO Survey to see what our community of business leaders think about the world’s most pressing issues. Over the last 23 years, the CEO Survey has proved a good indicator of the direction of the global economy. This year’s research collected the views of over 5000 CEOs worldwide in January and February on how they plan to grow their businesses and manage their teams in the year ahead.

Key findings include:

  • The UK has overtaken India and is now the fourth most attractive growth target to global CEOs
  • In particular, the UK has grown in appeal to CEOs in China, India, Canada and New Zealand
  • Confidence improves among CEOs around the world, with UK CEOs even more optimistic about the global economy and their organisations’ growth prospects than their global counterparts
  • A large proportion (56%) of UK CEOs expect to increase headcount this year

According to the survey, post-Brexit UK is an increasingly attractive growth prospect for global CEOs. Results revealed that 11% of global CEO chose the UK as a top 3 growth target, increasing from 9% in autumn 2019. Whilst America, China and Germany remain in the top three, strikingly, post-Brexit UK has overtaken India as the world’s most promising growth opportunity.

China-based executives were particularly interested in the UK market, with 13% selecting the UK, compared with only 3% in 2019. Similarly, a quarter of India’s bosses said the UK was a top three growth target, up from only 9.5% in 2019.

Canada also saw an increase in CEOs selecting the UK. In 2019, 13% of Canadian CEOs selected the UK, increasing to 20% in 2021. The UK signed a trade agreement with Canada in December 2020 and will look to negotiate a new deal in 2021.

New Zealand, a key trade target market for the UK, also placed more emphasis on the UK as a growth prospect, with a fifth (20%) of CEOs choosing the UK, increasing from only 9% in 2019.

Kevin Ellis, Chairman and Senior Partner at PwC UK, said: “The findings are a vote of confidence in certainty and stability, which have undoubtedly increased on the trade front.  Not only has the UK grown in appeal to some of our newer trade targets, but it remains an important market among our European neighbours, with 15% of Germany’s CEOs saying the UK is a top 3 growth target, compared with 13% in 2019. Likewise, Germany remains the second most important target for CEOs in the UK behind the U.S."

“These are encouraging signs but there’s more to do to enhance the UK’s position and investment attractiveness in what remains a very uncertain world.”

After a year of uncertainties and economic challenges, CEOs are voicing record levels of optimism in global economic recovery. Three quarters of UK and global CEOs expect the global economy to improve.  Whilst 26% of UK CEOs expect it to improve greatly, only 15% of their global counterparts said the same.

Kevin Ellis said: “CEOs are largely confident the crisis has turned a corner – just 2% of them think economic conditions will get much worse. This improvement is fuelling activity and momentum, as chief execs plan ahead, invest and acquire in areas that will help them adapt for a more resilient future.”

As international businesses look to expand into the UK market, our team of advisors, here at Ecovis, are ideally placed to offer a helping hand. With over 30 years’ experience providing business consultancy to overseas start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs, we have a proven track record of servicing clients across the globe. Please get in touch if you would like our expert guidance.