CEO Survey Analysis

Oxford Business Group (OBG) began its CEO Survey in 2016 with the aim of giving our clients a handle on sentiment in the various markets we cover.

Sentiment is of course intangible, but it is an all-important factor in the decisions business people and investors make when they weigh up their risk appetite. In turn, sentiment informs the level of confidence with which they view a market.

It is also acutely sensitive, something clearly demonstrated by the way global markets have been impacted by the spread of covid-19.

The fast-growth markets we specialise in – what we call the “Yellow Slice”, in reference to our corporate colour – have in many senses inherently higher levels of risk than those in the developed world, but the possible returns can be much higher too.

With moribund growth in many established markets, the Yellow Slice countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, when viewed as a bloc, with their strong economic fundamentals, youthful populations and positive average GDP figures, present a compelling picture.

That’s not to say there’s a straight divergence – it’s much more complicated than that. While as a group their average growth rates are higher, much still needs to be done in terms of economic and social reform to ensure an equitable spread of the fruits of growth. Many suffer from the commodities curse, whether in the form of agriculture, hydrocarbons or mining, as well as opaque political systems and bureaucratic red tape.

However, we live in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. The differences between what used to be termed developed and developing are blurred. Take the supply chains surrounding the Apple iPhone as a prime example of this. Each handset is made up of hundreds of components, sourced from about 43 countries on six continents. To take the smartphone analogy even further, these devices are increasingly enabling people to watch the same things, share the same fashions and ideas, and transact and do business with each other more easily than ever before.

As a result, what happens in one market can – and increasingly does – have a direct impact on others, often on the other side of the world.

Globalisation has come under major scrutiny in the years since the financial crisis, but it seems to be here to stay; how to equitably spread its benefits is actually the question that should be exercising us.

Enabling an understanding of how business people in these markets view their own environments from the standpoint of growth, taxation, regulation, access to credit and availability of labour is what the OBG CEO Survey does, providing important insights for our clients and informing their decisions.

The survey is undertaken on an anonymous basis, allowing for candid answers. We do, however, categorise companies by industry, sector and headcount, and can therefore extrapolate broader trends. We publish the results annually on both a national and regional basis, and now we do so for the first time globally.

It is worth noting that the survey was undertaken before the wider spread of covid-19 and that the results do not therefore reflect the inevitable changes in businesspeople’s current outlook. While it is too early to predict how the virus will develop, the impact is clearly rattling investors. What is clear, though, is that it will be quite some time before the full impact can be assessed, and will therefore make the coming iteration of the CEO Survey interesting and instructive reading.