business leaders

A survey conducted by Accenture of 478 C-suite executives in 15 countries across 15 industries has revealed that business leaders are optimistic that the European market will make a relatively fast recovery from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

The survey Bold Moves in Tough Times was conducted amongst leaders in Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific.

Two-thirds (66%) of business leaders globally are optimistic that the European market will make a relatively fast recovery from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst approximately three in 10 respondents (29%) expect the recovery in Europe to be fairly rapid (“V-shaped”).

Of the survey participants, 37% anticipate a slower, but steady, “U-shaped” recovery in the next 12 months.

Executives expect the German, Nordic and UK economies to rebound the fastest from the downturn, followed by France, Spain and Italy.

Four in 10 respondents (39%) believe that European companies will be more competitive vis-a-vis their U.S. peers than they were before the crisis, and even more (43%) believe that European companies will be more competitive compared with Chinese businesses.

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Although European companies plan to accelerate digital transformation, the investments will not be enough to help them catch up with US and Chinese businesses. Of European respondents in the manufacturing sector, 42% plans to accelerate investment in digital transformation, compared with just 32% and 30% in North America and Asia.

More than half (53%) of European respondents said they are slowing investments in innovation and won’t relaunch any initiatives in the next six months, compared with 33% of respondents in North America and 49% in Asia Pacific.

Jean-Marc Ollagner, the CEO of Accenture in Europe, said: “Confidence is critical in the current economic environment, which it is still volatile and uncertain.”

Ollagner: “The optimism regarding Europe’s economic recovery and competitiveness offers European companies a unique opportunity to reinforce their leadership and close the gap with their American and Asian competitors. However, this will depend on how well they translate optimism into bold actions. The biggest risk is that European business leaders remain over-reliant on government support, stay on the defensive and underinvest in game-changing innovations — because their global competition won’t wait.

“Europe’s business leaders must start reinventing themselves for the post-COVID-19 world today.”

“Now is the time to think and act differently and take balanced risks to build long-term resiliency and to renew growth models to adapt to what we call a ‘never normal’ world.

“Europe is at a crossroads; its business leaders can continue down the well-trodden strategic and operational paths, or they can explore a new way forward, one based on innovation and high-potential technology that blends with Europe’s traditional strengths of sustainability, solidarity and purpose.

“Difficult though the COVID-19 pandemic has been, as we emerge from it the scale and scope of new opportunities — particularly in the industrial sector and on energy transition issues — are clear. It’s time for Europe to make bold moves and seize those opportunities to finally close the competitiveness gap.”

The survey Bold Moves in Tough Times was conducted in May 2020 and covers companies with annual revenues exceeding $500 million within industries including energy, utilities, high tech and public services.