How are CEOs planning to maintain investment during a recession? Now’s the time to find out

Deloitte CEO Joe Ucuzoglu
Deloitte CEO Joe Ucuzoglu in October 2019 in New York City.
Jim Spellman—Getty Images

Good morning.

A recession is now almost universally anticipated among business leaders. A recent KPMG poll of CEOs found 91% believe it will hit in the next 12 months, and only 34% think it will be mild and short.

But just how should businesses prepare for that widely predicted downturn? That remains a subject of debate. As the bottom line shrinks, it’s natural to assume companies will cut back spending on things like digital transformation or ESG initiatives. And indeed, the KPMG survey found 59% of CEOs say they plan to “pause” or “reconsider” their ESG plans over the next six months.

Yet I keep finding myself in conversations with forward-leaning CEOs who insist it is times like the present that test their mettle. They believe continued investment, both in digital transformation and in sustainability, will be critical to their long-term success. And those who can find a way to keep investment up, even in the face of a downturn, will win the future.

How exactly do you do that? That’s a question I plan to ask numerous leading CEOs over the course of the next two weeks. On Tuesday, I’ll be at Oracle’s user conference in Las Vegas, talking onstage with Deloitte CEO Joe Ucuzoglu. Then I’ll head to San Francisco, where Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram will interview Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang at our West Coast Fortune Global Forum dinner. Two days later, I’ll be interviewing JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon at the East Coast version of the same event. 

I’m also eager to hear from CEO Daily readers. What is your strategy for maintaining growth and continuing transformation even as the economy shrinks? Share your thoughts, and I’ll report back later this week.

By the way, it’s already clear the battle for talent is continuing, even as recession looms. How else can you account for the fact that the unemployment rate went down in September—to 3.5%? That’s why companies are paying such close attention to the great debate over a return to the office—a debate in which Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky have staked out very different approaches, as Hillary Hoffower’s story yesterday documents.

Other news below.

Alan Murray


Goldman reorg

Goldman Sachs will reportedly combine its investment banking and trading businesses into one unit, as part of a sweeping reorganization that will also see the merger of its asset and wealth management businesses into another division. Another unit will incorporate Goldman’s transaction banking and fintech businesses, along with its Apple and GM tie-ins. Wall Street Journal

Toasted Truss

Top U.K. business figures are calling for the defenestration of Prime Minister Liz Truss, whose pro-growth agenda lies in ruins after she sacked fellow libertarian Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and replaced him with ideological opponent Jeremy Hunt. Asda chair Stuart Rose called her “a busted flush” and private equity big shot Guy Hands (of Terra Firma Capital Partners) said “a grown-up needs to take over…before the lights go out irreversibly on this once great nation.” A bunch of Truss’ own lawmakers also want her out immediately. Financial Times

Trump whistleblower

Will Wilkerson, a former executive at Truth Social owner Trump Media & Technology Group, has gone to the SEC with a whistleblower allegation that the company’s attempt at a SPAC merger relied on “fraudulent misrepresentations.” Wilkerson now has been fired, which his lawyers say was “patent retaliation against an SEC whistleblower of the worst kind.” He has given the media and federal investigators a cache of internal documents to bolster his claims. Washington Post


EU to propose gas price cap for avoiding ‘extreme volatility’ as winter looms in an energy crisis, by Bloomberg

The economist who just won the Nobel Prize warns the Fed will cause ‘all kinds of trouble’ if it continues on its current path, by Shawn Tully

Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse is getting slammed in internal documents: ‘An empty world is a sad world,’ by Steve Mollman

Elon Musk retreats from demand for help with funding Starlink in Ukraine, by Bloomberg

Goodbye, lightning charger. Hello, USB-C. The EU is forcing Google and Apple to adopt a universal charger, likely setting a new global standard, by Vivienne Walt

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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