CEOs are facing uncertainty head-on

Economic uncertainty is pushing CEOs to double down on strategic transformation initiatives.
Spencer Platt - Getty Images

Good morning,

Resilience has to be the business byword of 2023. Nothing seems to dampen the determination of business leaders to move ahead with transformative investments–not persistent inflation, not broken supply chains, not the risk of World War III, not even bank meltdowns. Uncertainty is at unprecedented levels. Yet, business leaders are plowing ahead.

That was the finding of our most recent CEO survey, conducted in collaboration with Deloitte, which you can read about here. And that finding was reinforced yesterday during a meeting of the Fortune CEO Initiative, at which we reviewed the survey results. Some excerpts from the conversation:

“We’re not shutting stuff down. We’re not pausing stuff. It’s not like it was, you know, a decade ago where we had a real problem and everybody stopped work.”

-Kevin McCarty, CEO, West Monroe

“This is not 2007-2008.  It’s different…We are not seeing panic at all.”

-Terry Rasmussen, CEO, Thrivent

“I think the level of uncertainty is unprecedented–from geopolitical to macroeconomic. But I think in our industry, our investments are very long-term by their nature. So we don’t see any reason to back off.”

Kristin Peck, CEO, Zoetis

“There’s no wavering on core business transformation, which includes everything around digital technologies, all things talent, and product, service and market innovation…It’s a kind of commitment to the fundamentals in the face of unprecedented uncertainty.”

-Jason Girzadas, CEO-elect, Deloitte US

Banks “are being more discerning. But I wouldn’t say banks are changing our scorecards, modifying everything. I think we’re being watchful.”

Nandita Bakhshi, Special Advisor, BMO Financial Group

“What we are seeing is our clients reprioritizing their investments. Previously they were doing a lot of experimentation and aspirational programs. Now they want results of those programs this year, not in ’24, not in ’25. “

-Suresh Muthuswami, Chairman, TCS North America

“If there was a question whether the transition of the energy sector would be in some kind of stalling mode because of what has happened, it’s not. Not at all. Actually, it has been accelerated drastically. We are starting to see signs that this energy transition is morphing into something a lot bigger and a lot wider than it was originally planned to be.”

Francesco Starace, CEO, Enel

“Energy is going to impact every single industry, or nearly every industry, and may become the number one limiting factor (for investment) in many countries outside the U.S.”

  -Brad Jackson, CEO, Slalom

“It does kind of reinforce, I don’t want to say optimism, but that…everything is accelerating the need to be transforming your business, and to use innovation and technology to do it.”

-Tony Bates, CEO, Genesys

“I think any company that is not training their workforce now on (Generative AI) is probably missing an opportunity to be far more productive than they are today.”

Russell Glass, CEO, Headspace Health

“I think there are reasons for resiliency and for optimism. I do think, though, that we have another shoe to drop, at least in the U.S., on commercial real estate.”

Joyce Mullen, CEO, Insight Enterprises

“One of the questions that I get asked most often these days is:  What’s most challenging for our business? And I think it’s capital allocation in this environment. We are just threading a needle almost on a daily basis–where do we have opportunity to grow our business?–while at the same time, shareholders are saying: ‘Don’t do anything silly.’”

Ken Seitz, CEO, Nutrien

“What I’m hearing here today is an amazing commitment to strategic investing and prioritizing a long-term focus…The strategic focus is winning out over the tactical problems.”

Alan Fleischmann, CEO, Laurel Strategies

Let’s hope that lasts. More news below.

Alan Murray


Dimon and Epstein

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is set to be interviewed under oath in May over the bank's decision to maintain Jeffrey Epstein as a client. The interview is part of two cases against the bank alleging that it benefited from human trafficking and ignored internal warnings about Epstein's illegal behavior. Despite JPMorgan's denial that Dimon was involved in any discussion over retaining Epstein as a client, the pre-trial process reportedly revealed communications between JPMorgan employees referencing a "Dimon review" of the bank's relationship with Epstein. Financial Times

Performance reviews are back

Large companies such as Google and Salesforce are focusing on performance reviews to weed out underperformers and reduce labor costs–and many have updated their performance management process to reflect new business needs and the economic climate by focusing on tangible contributions to organizational growth. Fortune

Cook visits China

Apple CEO Tim Cook's recent trip to China marked his first visit to the country since the pandemic, where he highlighted the mutually beneficial relationship between China and Apple at a business conference hosted by the Chinese government. Despite the pandemic forcing Apple to reconsider its supply chain, China remains a crucial partner and the company's second-largest market after the U.S. Axios


Lyft’s new CEO says its competition isn’t just Uber, it’s a ‘battle against staying at home’ by Prarthana Prakash

Goldman Sachs says the banking meltdown is a ‘headwind’ for the economy but not a recession-causing ‘hurricane’ by Will Daniel

Meta’s latest step in its ‘Year of Efficiency’: More reviews and lower bonuses by Chris Morris

Twitter will suppress accounts that don’t pay for Twitter Blue, proving that ‘shadowbanning’ is alive and well by David Meyer

Nvidia moves into A.I. services and ChatGPT can now use your credit card by Jeremy Kahn

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Jackson Fordyce. 

This is the web version of CEO Daily, a newsletter of must-read insights from Fortune CEO Alan Murray. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet