Inside the Mind of the CEO

This interview series explores the critical decisions today’s chief executives face.

 

Automation is top of mind for chief executives who took part in PwC’s 21st CEO Survey

Many CEOs are confident that robotics and artificial intelligence will have a disruptive effect on the workforce of the future.

Photograph by Tanja Houwerzijl
“We have three basic criteria for approving an innovation project. First, the product must not yet be available in the world. Second, it should make people happy, giving them something they need and want. Third, it must be difficult to develop in terms of engineering prowess.”
 
For Shin Sakane, CEO of Japan’s Seven Dreamers Laboratories, the key to innovation is satisfying unrecognized customer needs.
 
Photograph courtesy of Katjes Fassin UK Ltd.
 
“Don’t develop something just because you think it’s cool and everybody should want it. Develop something that solves a problem in the market or makes someone’s life better.”
Katjes Magic Candy Factory, based in Birmingham, U.K., does something that no other factory can: make customer-designed sweets using a specially engineered 3D printer.
 

The financial industry is seeing a lot of disruption, forcing companies to innovate not only in their products and services, but also in finding better ways of doing business.

Photograph © N26
 
“If you want to put forward a very simple product that people love to use, you can only do it when you own the technology and govern yourself.”
Valentin Stalf, chief executive of German financial-services startup N26, wants banking to be like music downloading.
 

Technology has changed the nature of many of the tasks that financial institutions undertake.​

Photograph courtesy of QSuper
“We called our new approach ‘commerciality with a heart.’ We invested a lot in our people, in our leadership capabilities, and in being very clear about what we…are striving for.”
 
Michael Pennisi, the chief executive of QSuper, one of Australia’s largest pension funds, describes how to change direction at scale.
 
 

Demographics and technology are changing the relationship between employers and employees.

Photograph courtesy of Pasona Group
 
“In Japan today, anybody willing to work should be able to work, regardless of gender and age — that’s my vision. We need to create jobs for everyone.”
Yasuyuki Nambu, CEO of Japan’s Pasona Group, is reframing short-term employment as a means of social benefit.
 

Talent is scarce, and companies need to create a value proposition to attract the leaders they need.

Photograph courtesy of Warburtons
 
“From a business perspective, technology is a great enabler. It can also be a great drag on the business if you let it control you, rather than you controlling the technology.”
Jonathan Warburton, chairman of U.K. bakery chain Warburtons, is clear-sighted about developing family talent and attracting top managers.
 

Optimism about global economic growth is at a record-setting level among company leaders in every region, from North America and Latin America to Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific.

Photograph courtesy of PwC Colombia
 
“Given our proximity to the U.S., the fact that the U.S. [economy] is growing at more than 2.5 percent is very interesting. We are also seeing European countries like Spain doing better than they have in the past.”
Bernardo Vargas Gibsone, CEO of the Colombian utility and construction company ISA, sees opportunity emerging from turmoil.