FS CEOs consider cyber attack biggest threat to growth

Financial Services CEOs rank cyber attacks as the greatest threat to future growth prospects - more than a pandemic or over-regulation - according to a survey from PwC.

The consulting and professional services firm surveyed 1108 chief executives as part of its annual global survey, and found that more than half (56 per cent) of those leading some of the world’s biggest banks, insurers and asset managers considered cyber attack to be the most significant threat to growth in 2021.

Other potential business, economic, policy, social and environmental threats to growth included pandemics (51 per cent) and over-regulation, which was cited by 50 per cent as a threat to growth.

The prospect of financial institutions being subject to a cyber-attack has grown considerably in recent years, according to PwC.

Just a third (33 per cent) of CEOs considered cyber threats the biggest concern for their business five years ago in 2016.

John Garvey, PwC’s Global Financial Services Leader, PwC US, said: “In an increasingly digital world a cyber-attack can be debilitating for any company. In financial services, where lots of sensitive personal financial information is held, it can come with even bigger risks to a company’s reputation.”

Despite fears over cyber threats, CEOs in financial services are more optimistic about the outlook for their businesses.

Globally, some 36 per cent of those polled said they are “very confident” about their organization’s prospects for revenue growth over the next 12 months, up from 28 per cent of CEOs in 2020.

A positive outlook on growth is also showing in the CEOs’ hiring plans, the study found.

Some 80 per cent of CEOs expect their organization’s headcount to either stay the same or increase in the next 12 months as the global economy is set to recover from the pandemic.

The survey findings show that the US is the top market for financial services CEOs looking for growth over the next 12 months at 29 per cent, nine percentage points ahead of China at 19 per cent.

“The financial services sector has come out of the pandemic in a strong position. This is reflected in the CEOs’ future growth and hiring plans. For businesses to become more resilient, we are expecting an increasing focus from executives on workplace productivity through automation and technology,” said Alex Petsopoulos, partner at PwC UK.

"This growing dependency on automated digital processes, which creates ever more connections between organisations, is why cyber attacks are now considered to pose an existential threat to businesses. The call to arms is clear and the solution requires a shared response by the financial services industry."

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