UK CEOs implementing GenAI faster than US, Chinese and European counterparts - PwC’s 27th Annual Global CEO Survey

  • Press Release
  • 15 Jan 2024
  • UK CEOs bullish about global economy; less confident in UK outlook - but more confident than last year

  • Deals on horizon - more than half of UK CEOs expect to make at least one major acquisition in the next three years (just 24% said they made an acquisition in the previous three years)

  • Almost half (48%) of UK CEOs say they’ll increase their headcount by 5% or more in 2024, more than double the proportion that say they’ll reduce it (21%)

  • UK the top investment target for US CEOs and rises ten places to sixth among China’s CEOs 

Chief executives in the UK are adopting GenAI at a much faster rate than their peers, with 42% saying they have implemented  the technology in the last year compared with 32% of CEOs globally, according to PwC’s 27th annual CEO Survey published at the World Economic Forum in Davos. 

The survey of 4,702 CEOs in 105 countries finds that the UK is at the front of the pack both in Europe and beyond, with only 9% of German CEOs and 20% of French CEOs adopting GenAI, along with 38% of US CEOs and 25% of China’s CEOs. The only countries that have adopted GenAI faster than the UK are Japan, where 50% of CEOs say they have done so, along with Norway (53%) and Finland (49%).

UK CEOs are also more confident than their peers in the commercial benefits of GenAI and the employee efficiencies it could bring as well as being more mindful of the risks (see notes to editors for country comparisons).

Kevin Ellis, Senior Partner, PwC UK, said:

“After an uphill trek against economic headwinds, UK chief execs are seeking game-changing opportunities. GenAI presents a ‘move or lose’ moment - implemented with care, it offers huge benefits for efficiency, competitiveness, and ultimately profitability.  The UK’s service-based economy makes it ideally placed for the GenAI revolution - building tech is only half the battle, ensuring people and businesses can use it is key.

“Investment in GenAI does not appear to be at the expense of jobs, with UK bosses predicting more headcount increases than their counterparts overseas, reflecting the resources needed to adopt GenAI and the growth it could bring. By investing in AI, the UK has a better chance of closing the productivity gap with other major economies.”

UK CEOs bullish on global economy and less pessimistic about UK outlook

The majority (61%) of UK CEOs expect the global economy to improve, which is far more than CEOs globally (38%), and almost a three fold increase on last year (21%).  Moreover, only 22% of UK CEOs expect it to decline - a big turnaround from the 71% last year that said the same. 

UK CEOs are less confident about the domestic economy - only 39% expect it to improve. However, this is a marked increase on last year, when only 9% forecast improvement. The improved confidence may partly explain why 53% of UK CEOs expect to make at least one major acquisition in the next three years, whereas just 24% said they made an acquisition in the previous three years.  

Pressure to transform business models is likely another driving factor for deals; some 21% of UK CEOs believe their business model will not be viable in a decade unless it changes course. However, CEOs globally feel this more acutely (45%, up from 39% last year; the UK figure is almost unchanged).

In line with the perceived green shoots, 48% of UK CEOs expect to increase their headcount by 5% or more this year, over double the proportion that expect to reduce headcount (21%).  Compared to other nations, the UK is more likely to increase headcount, with only 41% of French CEOs, 30% of German CEOs and 38% of US CEOs saying the same. Over double (44%) the number of Chinese CEOs expect to reduce headcount over the next year compared to UK CEOs.

UK significantly more important for China’s CEOs and retains the top spot for US companies looking to invest  

The UK is still the number one country for US CEOs looking to invest, with almost a third (32%) selecting the UK as the top target. Furthermore, the UK’s standing among China’s CEOs has changed dramatically - it is now joint sixth, up from 16th last year. However, it has become slightly less strategically important for global CEOs, falling one place to fourth behind Germany (it was joint third with Germany last year; the US and China remain in  first and second place respectively). 

For UK CEOs, around half (51%) say the US is the most important nation for their revenue growth in the next 12 months, down from 58% last year. Germany remains in second place, with a third (33%) of CEOs considering it the most important, while France (17%) has nudged ahead of China (16%) to take third place.

Kevin Ellis added:

“The UK’s standing on the world stage has proved pretty resilient, particularly among the biggest powers and global investors. There’s no doubt it remains an attractive place to live, work and invest. But we can’t be complacent - any slip in the ranking serves as a wake-up call.  

“Britain’s bosses may not be brimming with confidence in the UK economy, but a three-fold increase in the number expecting it to improve should not be sniffed at. The fact businesses are investing in tech and looking ahead to acquisitions will support economic growth.”

UK CEOs reporting progress on climate change

Climate change remains high on the agenda for UK CEOs, with 85% saying they have either begun or completed steps to improve energy efficiency, compared to 75% of global CEOs. Business leaders around the world continue to recognise the disruptive force that climate change will be for their businesses - globally, nearly one-third (30%) expect it to shift the way they create, deliver, and capture value over the next three years, with a quarter (24%) in the UK saying the same. 

27th UK CEO Survey

Time for reinvention: CEOs target the acceleration and elevation of critical change

Notes to editors

PwC conducted 4,702  interviews with CEOs in 105 countries and territories in October and November 2023, including 135 CEOs in the UK. In the UK, 34% were from companies with less than US $100 million; 22% from companies with > US $1 billion. In the UK, 76% were from privately owned companies.
Download the report at   

Additional GenAI country comparisons:

  • UK business leaders are confident about the commercial benefits of GenAI - notably, 45% believe it will boost revenues within 12 months (for French, German and US CEOs the figures are 28%, 23% and 35% respectively). 

  •  In addition, the majority (64%) of UK CEOs say that GenAI will increase employee efficiency in the next 12 months by 5% or more, in line with the views of Global CEOs. 

  • However, UK CEOs are also more mindful of the risks - 73% cite cyber security risks as the top unintended consequence of GenAI compared to 64% global CEOs 

  • Chinese CEOs are the most optimistic about the advantages GenAI will bring, despite having adopted it in fairly low numbers (25% compared to 42% in the UK). 

  • 59% of UK CEOs say that GenAI could increase the spread of misinformation, compared to 52% of Global CEOs. However, the US remains more concerned about this particular risk (63% of CEOs), whereas those in China are much less concerned (25% of CEOs).

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