CEOs of money and wealth management firms consider cyberattacks as the greatest threat to future growth prospects ahead of the pandemic or regulation, an annual survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed.
Just less than half, or 48%, of executives at global firms ranked cyberattacks as the top concern, followed by pandemics and overregulation, which were top choices for 46% and 43% of the 369 respondents, respectively. Cybersecurity and regulation increased as a source of risk for managers over the past year, according to PwC's 24th Annual Global CEO Survey, conducted in January and February this year.
In 2020, 37% of top executives each named these factors as threats to growth prospects. Pandemics were not ranked in 2020.
By contrast the 2020 edition of the survey, which had 153 respondents, said top threats for managers were trade conflicts and geopolitical uncertainty, ahead of cyberattacks, PwC said.
The 2020 ranking was topped by geopolitical threats, indicated by 42% of asset and wealth management executives. In 2021, this has declined substantially as a major risk, to 26% of respondents.
Also in 2020, 37% of executives at money and wealth management firms said trade conflicts were the biggest risk compared with 21% of respondents in 2021.
Money and wealth manager responses were mirrored by executives of top banks and insurance companies. For more than half of financial services CEOs, cyberattacks were the top concern, ahead of pandemics and regulation in 2021.
"This growing dependency on automated digital processes, which creates ever more connections between organizations, is why cyberattacks are now considered to pose an existential threat to businesses," said Alex Petsopoulos, partner at PwC U.K., in a news release about the survey results Monday. "The call to arms is clear, and the solution requires a shared response by the financial services industry."
Despite these risks, CEOs of financial services companies are more optimistic about the outlook for their businesses, as globally 36% of those polled said they are "very confident" about their organization's prospects for revenue growth over the next 12 months, up from 28% of CEOs in 2020.
Some 42% of asset and wealth managers’ CEOs said they were “very confident” about their firm’s revenue growth, compared with 29% in 2020.
A positive outlook on growth is showing in the CEOs' hiring plans. As the global economy is set to recover from the pandemic, 48% of executives of money and wealth management firms plan to increase their head count by 3% to 9% compared with 18% that plan to decrease it moderately or substantially.