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CEOs are optimistic about the economy

June 25, 2021, 10:42 AM UTC

Good morning.

We’ve got a new poll of CEOs out this morning, conducted in collaboration with Deloitte. The big takeaway is surprising optimism about the economy. Some details:

—53% of the CEOs believe the business effects of the pandemic “will largely be over by the end of 2021.”
—77% of CEOs expect their organizations growth to be “very strong” or “strong” over the next 12 months.
—82% expect to increase spending on technology modernization.
—Asked in an open-ended question to name the biggest challenge they face, the CEOs mentioned “talent” more than anything else.
—Cybersecurity was also top of mind, with 86% saying it is “highly” or “moderately” relevant to their agenda. Cryptocurrency ranked at the bottom, with only 16% ranking it “highly” or “moderately” relevant. 
—Three-quarters of CEOs believe corporate taxes are likely to rise, but concern over tax issues (only 60% said it was “highly” or “moderately” relevant) was significantly below concern over social issues (73%), and only modestly higher than concern over climate (56%).

The results were rolled out earlier this week at a special session of the Fortune CEO Initiative, and comments from attendees added some useful caution. Summarizing the poll results, Deloitte U.S. CEO Joe Ucuzoglu said the following:

“There is tremendous optimism. It does seem to be grounded in economic fundamentals, strong growth, tremendous pent-up consumer demand. I’ve had, in conversations with client CEOs over the past couple of weeks, comparisons made to the Roaring 20s, comparisons made to the period coming out of World War II.

“What’s the potential curveball? If I had to pick one, it is absolutely this unprecedented experiment in fiscal and monetary policy, and the visible signs of price escalation and wage escalation. We’ve gotten some subtle assurances that it’s all transitory. But what if it is not?”

Dan Knotts, CEO of RR Donnelly, amplified the concern about supply chain problems and talent shortages:

“We service just about every industry that is out there. The recovery is definitely happening across most. But the biggest concern we are hearing back from our 30,000 clients is the supply chain challenges and labor challenges.”

Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA, expressed the supply chain disruption with a relatable metaphor:

“What we are going through feels like when you are out on the beltway around one of our major cities, and somebody taps on the brakes, and there’s a pileup.”

Occidental CEO Vicki Hollub confirmed the sharp increase in concern over climate issues:

“We have been working on our low carbon strategy now for a number of years, and for a long time the only people who would talk to us about it were the European investors. Now we have seen a shift. It started happening about a year ago. If you go back and listen to our last couple of earnings calls, about half the questions have been about low carbon, and how to get there.”

And both Ucuzoglu and Laurel Strategies CEO Alan Fleischmann emphasized concern over cybersecurity. Here’s Fleischmann:

“I think it is the biggest issue CEOs think about, if not talk about. It’s getting worse not better.”

And here’s Ucuzoglu:

“There is a growing realization that this is actually perhaps the greatest threat the country faces… We are at the early stages of trying to stand up a massive partnership between private industry and government in tackling what really is a shared objective in the interest of the country.”

More news below.

Alan Murray


Infrastructure deal

The White House and a bipartisan group of senators have agreed on a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure deal, covering water, transportation and broadband. The markets approve. Now it needs to get through Congress—and Biden says he won't be signing anything unless the deal hits his desk alongside another deal on non-physical infrastructure covering things like education and health care. Wall Street Journal

Google privacy

Google has delayed for two years the ending of the Chrome browser's support for third-party cookies that track people around the web. The move comes under strong regulatory and industry pressure, and it's been great news for the share prices of rival ad-tech companies. Fortune

Panasonic and Tesla

Panasonic has offloaded its entire stake in Tesla, which dominates its battery business. The stake was sold for around $3.6 billion in the year ended March, with the timing possibly benefiting from Tesla's crypto assets artificially boosting its share price. Reuters

Windows 11

Microsoft has unveiled a new version of Windows, due to arrive this holiday season. Veteran Microsoft watchers will be amused/impressed to see the company assuming a decidedly pro-competitive guise, boasting about compatibility with Android apps and such. On the other hand, Microsoft Teams will now be integrated with Windows, which is likely to elicit howls of protest from the likes of Zoom and Slack. Fortune


Crypto mystery

The founders of South Africa's biggest cryptocurrency exchange have disappeared along with nearly $3.6 billion in Bitcoin. Before vanishing, the Cajee brothers told investors that the company, Africrypt, had been hacked. Not helpful: South Africa's financial regulator can't investigate because cryptocurrency isn't legally recognized as a financial product there. Fortune

UEFA sponsors

Sponsors of Europe's top soccer organization have not come out well from UEFA's beyond-controversial decision to ban rainbow-flag stadium lighting at a Germany-Hungary match earlier this week (Hungary passed a homophobic law and the Germans were keen to protest). Coca-Cola: "This is a matter for UEFA." Others released colorful promotional tweets and the like, but also refused to criticize UEFA. Fortune

Brexit effect

Customers of the U.K.'s biggest mobile operator, EE, will soon have to start paying to use their data allowances while roaming in the EU. The EU has a ban on roaming surcharges within its borders, but the U.K. is now outside its borders, so this was to be expected. Fortune

Standing out

How to stand out as a job candidate in the current market? As Jennifer Mizgata advises in her monthly Q&A column for Fortune, Work Space: "Now is a time to be honest with yourself about what’s most important to you and what you need from a job, whether that’s a minimum salary, flexibility with childcare, stability, or an opportunity for career growth…The more you can vocalize what you’re looking for, the better equipped people in your network are to pass along opportunities to you, make connections, and put your name forward to other people." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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