Market shifts worry CEOs most - poll

Last updated 05:00 20/11/2012

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The biggest concern for New Zealand's private sector chief executives is their rapidly shifting markets, but they are not necessarily looking to technology for the answers, says a new survey of business leaders.

The New Normal survey, just published by law firm Kensington Swan and Auckland University's business school, measured the top-rated issues and challenges of 265 chief executives, including 135 respondents from the private sector.

While over one third of private CEOs rated market shifts inside their top "three to five challenges or risks", public sector and not-for-profit sector chiefs were more worried about changes in the overall economic climate.

Private CEOs were aware the pace of change in many markets - such as media, publishing, accounting services and retail sales - was increasing and their businesses needed to be agile to maintain their revenues, said The New Normalreport's authors.

Company leaders surveyed said they also noticed customers had become more price sensitive in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and recession.

At the same time social changes meant the importance of environmental issues, social responsibility and awareness of health issues was growing. Overall, respondents were aware that "different business models need consideration", while one said the company's customers had changed from "a number of middle/high-end retailers worldwide to international chains who want a very different product range and significantly reduced prices".

University of Auckland Business School Professor Siah Ang said competitiveness was no longer based only on having better products and processes.

About 25 per cent of private sector CEOs also rated concerns about access to finance and having an "effective dialogue" with shareholders among their top three or five challenges.

However, the category "responding to emerging technologies" came well down the list, outside the top 10 concerns for both private and public sector CEOs and with only about 13 per cent of private leaders rating this challenge near the top of their minds.

Respondents saw technology as a "two-edged sword" with numerous CEOs mentioning pros and cons in a single sentence, said the report.

Associate professor of information systems at Auckland University, David Sundaram, said the emergence of "digital natives" - young people who have grown up using advanced computers and internet applications - would change both consumer markets and private workforces forever.

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