HLB Survey of Business Leaders 2024: Optimism and change

First launched in 2020, the inaugural HLB Survey of Business Leaders focused on uncovering insights into the modern business landscape. Our latest survey draws responses from nearly 1,000 mid-market leaders across 50+ countries to shed light on critical challenges and opportunities for businesses today.

In this outlook, we zoom in on Financial Services to illustrate its position vis-à-vis the broader economy, seeking to unveil the sector’s priorities for 2024 and explore how business leaders are addressing business challenges through the strategic adoption of new technologies, such as AI, to drive innovation and foster growth.

Business confidence surges amid persisting challenges

After demonstrating resilience and adaptability during a period marked by a flurry of crises, the financial sector is experiencing a resurgence in business confidence. According to our survey, 41% of financial sector leaders express confidence in economic growth, and 85% believe in their company’s capacity to grow. This sentiment aligns with our global findings, although the sector shows more business optimism than its global peers, with a significantly higher percentage of financial sector leaders (46% versus 36% of global respondents) being ‘very confident’ about growing their own enterprises.

"Economic optimism up by 14 percentage points, and 85% of business leaders are confident in their ability to grow revenue in 2024"

The prevailing optimism, seen both broadly and within the financial sector, appears to be less a reflection of an improving environment and more an indication of businesses’ adaptability to what is often characterised as a relentless’ conveyor belt’ of crises.

This persistent stream of growth-threatening risks continues to challenge even the most established businesses. Today, more than half of global business leaders in our survey expressed concerns about the impact of at least 12 different risks, a sharp increase from just five risks reported in 2020.

Among these risks, global business leaders’ primary concern is inflation (74%). Yet, for financial sector leaders, geopolitical risk also takes precedence (72%), followed by cybersecurity (66%), with ‘access to talent’ trailing closely behind at 62%. In contrast, only 52% of the global sample of business leaders identify ‘access to talent’ as their primary concern, showcasing a notable discrepancy in challenges and priorities.

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