Remote working and digital transformation push cyber security to the top of the agenda for UK CEOs

18 Mar 2021

  • 91% of UK CEOs are concerned about cyber threats, up from 80% last year
  • As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, 67% of UK CEOs plan to increase long-term investment in cybersecurity and data privacy over the next three years
  • 48% of UK CEOs are ‘extremely concerned’ (up from 42% last year) about the risk of cyber threats to their business growth prospects

The rapid pace of digital transformation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw businesses move services online, supply chains disrupted and employees work from home, has pushed cyber security to the top of the agenda for UK CEOs.

Ninety-one per cent of UK CEOs are concerned about the threat of cyber security risks,  according to PwC’s 24th Annual CEO Survey. This is the highest figure recorded since CEOs were first asked about cyber threats in the survey, and an increase on last year’s figure of 80%. It is also higher than this year’s global figure of 85%. 

Chris Gaines, Cyber Security Leader, PwC UK said:

“As the criticality of technology has increased over the past year, so have UK CEOs’ fears of cyber security threats. This heightened concern is understandable as the stakes are so much higher than they were 12 months ago. Businesses have become more aware of how reliant on technology they are for their very survival, and as such the risk of cyber security attacks naturally weighs more heavily on their minds. 

“The technological changes implemented over the past 12 months have not only been across businesses, but also society, and many were implemented in haste. Risk averse organisations who in different times may have taken years to plan for increased remote working made the change overnight. Organisations must now effectively, securely embed such changes while continuing to evolve and innovate.”

Cyber threats are top strategic risk for UK CEOs

When asked which top three threats are explicitly factored into their strategic risk management activities, ‘cyber threats’ was the most selected by UK CEOs and chosen by 75% of them. This was in front of ‘pandemics and other health crises’ (62%), and ‘uncertain economic growth’ (57%).

Looking ahead, 48% of UK CEOs are ‘extremely concerned’ (up from 42% last year) about the risk of cyber threats to their business growth prospects. In addition, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, 67% of UK CEOs plan to increase long-term investment in cybersecurity and data privacy over the next three years, with 24% of UK CEOs saying they will significantly increase long-term investments. 

Chris Gaines, Cyber Security Leader, PwC UK said:

“Increasing investment in cyber defences is only part of the approach CEOs should be taking. With every area of every organisation now more reliant on technology, and more reliant upon the technology of suppliers and other organisations within their ecosystem, business leaders need to appreciate the role they must play in securing their organisation. 

“Securing an enterprise is far more than ensuring the CIO builds the right technical controls. It is about simplifying the organisation to be securable. It is about assessing, understanding and managing the cyber risk impact of every business decision. And it is about recognising that much of cyber security risk originates from vulnerabilities outside their organisation. CEOs are right to be concerned about cyber security risk but the challenge they face is shaping their organisations to be securable. However, this period of change we find ourselves in presents the perfect moment to face into that challenge.”

 

Ends.

Notes to editors

The CEO Survey can be found here

PwC surveyed 5,050 CEOs in 100 countries and territories in January and February 2021. This is up from 3,501 respondents in last year’s survey. The global and regional figures in this report are based on a sub-sample of 1,779 CEOs, proportionate to country nominal GDP to ensure that CEOs’ views are representative across all major regions. Further details by region, country and industry are available on request. 

Of the 1,779 CEOs whose responses were used for the global and regional figures:

  • 6% of their organisations had revenues of US$25bn or more

  • 9% of their organisations had revenues between US$10bn and US$25bn.

  • 35% of their organisations had revenues between US$1bn and US$10bn.

  • 34% of their organisations had revenues between US$100m and US$1bn.

  • 14% of their organisations had revenues of up to US$100m.

  • 60% of their organisations were privately owned.

We also conducted in-depth, face-to-face interviews with CEOs from six regions. Some of these interviews are quoted in this report, and more extensive transcripts can be found on our website at https://www.strategy-business.com/inside-the-mind-of-the-ceo.

 

 

About PwC

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 155 countries with over 284,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com.

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.

© 2021 PwC. All rights reserved

Contact us

Chris French

Manager, media relations, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7483 434951

Follow us