CEOs remain optimistic in the face of Omicron

January 20, 2022, 12:01 PM UTC

Good morning.

Fortune has a new CEO survey out this morning, conducted in partnership with Deloitte. It was fielded from Jan. 4 to 12, so after Omicron was in full flower. And what’s particularly interesting is how optimistic the CEOs were in spite of the variant. Some 65% expected their organization’s growth to be “strong” or “very strong” over the next 12 months, with technology, finance, professional services, and health care companies expressing the most optimism (83%, 76%, 75% and 67%, respectively), while retail and consumer product CEOs were least optimistic (46%).

The battle for talent is still very much top of mind for CEOs. Asked what external issues could disrupt their business over the course of the year, the labor and skills shortage got the most mentions by CEOs (71%), followed by the pandemic (56%), supply chain disruption (46%), and inflation and financial market instability (36%). Less highly ranked were cybersecurity risks (25%), geopolitical instability (22%) and ideological polarization (10%).

The survey also asked CEOs to rank the roles in their organization most important to their success. CFOs got the most mentions (66%), followed by business unit leaders (55%), Chief Operations Officer (45%), Chief Talent/HR Officer or equivalent (41%), Chief Information or Technology Officer (31%), Chief Marketing Officer (17%), Chief Strategy Officer (15%) and Chief Legal Counsel (10%). 

The survey was answered by 175 CEOs, of whom 85% were based in the U.S. 

More news below. And apologies this morning to all the Illini who pointed out my misspelling yesterday of Urbana-Champaign.

Alan Murray


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Vaccines for under-5s

The FDA could approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for kids under the age of five—the only age group that currently can't get the jab—by the end of February, top government medical adviser Anthony Fauci has claimed. Fortune

Omicron vs boosters

A small-scale study from South Africa showed that mRNA boosters aren't enough to block infection with the Omicron variant, which was first identified in the country—but they do still help to ward off severe illness. Fortune

Leon Black

Private-equity titan Leon Black has accused Apollo Management co-founder Josh Harris of being behind a "coup and smear campaign" against him—by seeding media stories about past business ties to Jeffrey Epstein—in an attempt to become Apollo CEO. Black is currently fighting civil claims by a Russian woman who alleges he sexually assaulted her. Fortune


Alibaba cloud

The Biden administration would like to know if Alibaba's cloud unit is a threat to national security, according to a report of a probe being opened. Reuters' sources say officials are looking into the possibility of the Chinese government being able to access U.S. clients' personal information and intellectual property. Reuters

COVID in Japan

Influential figures in Japan, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have been urging a downgrade of the coronavirus's legal status, placing it on a par with flu and effectively widening access to COVID care. However, the government of current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says the Omicron caseload means it's too early to make such a move. Fortune

COVID in Indonesia

Indonesia had to throw out 1.1 million vaccine doses that had been donated to the country, with the vast majority being close to expiry. The Indonesian government will now only accept donations where the expiry date is three months or more away. Bloomberg

Earbud e-waste

Want to fix your wireless earbuds? Good luck with that. As this great piece of visual storytelling explains, the tiny gadgets are so difficult to service that few bother. And, because earbuds only tend to last a couple years, that means a load of electronic waste. Financial Times

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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