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Inside the Mind of the CEO

The Inside the Mind of the CEO interview series explores a wide range of critical decisions faced by chief executives around the world. For more insight, see PwC’s CEO Survey.

Photo courtesy of Kobo360
“In Africa, because of this high-touch ecosystem, there are inefficiencies, a lack of transparency, and corruption. As digital becomes mainstream…there will be less opportunity for extortion.”
Obi Ozor, the founder of Kobo360, a data-driven logistics startup based in Nigeria, explains how COVID-19 is accelerating digitization, which in turn is improving food security in Africa.
Courtesy of Sky
“There’s always a lot of people telling you that that particular idea is not a very good one. And you just have to follow your instinct and make it happen.”
Jeremy Darroch, the veteran CEO of global broadcaster Sky, believes consistent renewal and reinvention is the key to relevance in the age of streaming.
Photo courtesy of Mojec International
“Solving problems is par for the course in business. You’re supposed to wake up and fix something every day.”
Chantelle Abdul grew Mojec International Holdings from a small family-owned business in Nigeria into an energy business that has helped modernize the country’s electricity market. Now, she’s thinking even bigger.
Courtesy of Ecopetrol
“Our vision is to continue to be efficient. I believe we are well positioned in the region; we have a reputation of being flexible and agile, and of being capable of transforming ourselves.”
Felipe Bayón, CEO of Ecopetrol, Colombia’s biggest company, explains how the company is transforming to stay on top.
Photograph courtesy of Miniwiz
“There’s a huge gap between the ideals people have about recycling and the actual practice.”
Arthur Huang, CEO of Miniwiz, wants to build a circular economy by changing people’s minds about the value of trash.
Courtesy of Lippo Karawaci
“Right now, we’re in a world with so much liquidity, and yet growth remains very low. This creates a search for yield, driving asset prices up and yields down.”
John Riady, the CEO of Indonesia’s Lippo Karawaci, is a young business leader with an eye for the future of his company and his region.
Courtesy of the Blackstone Group
“I’m not a believer in paid audiences. There’s no reason to sit in a room and watch somebody else work. You’re there to work.”
Stephen A. Schwarzman discusses what it takes to think big — in business, deals, and philanthropy.
Photograph courtesy of Li & Fung
“The single most difficult thing for me as a CEO in this industry has been influencing a change of mind-set: first in our own management team, then in our employees, and in our customers and suppliers.”
Li & Fung CEO Spencer Fung has explicitly championed a digital transformation of one of the world’s most influential supply chain management companies.
Courtesy of Infobip
“The majority of the things we do every day are for the first time. We are in a continuous learning loop.”
Silvio Kutić, CEO of Infobip, discusses the evolution of messaging technology and how artificial intelligence will change the way we interact with the Internet.
Courtesy of Titan Company
“You have to be able to listen to weak signals and work them into an opportunity.”
How Bhaskar Bhat turned an Indian watchmaking startup into a lifestyle giant.
Courtesy of PepsiCo Foods Mexico
“Technologies change, but human beings love stories. It doesn’t matter if they’re in 140 characters or a 30-second commercial. We have to communicate with the consumer through those stories.”
Roberto Martínez, CEO of PepsiCo Foods Mexico, is capitalizing on digital tools to better understand the needs of new consumers. And he’s not forgetting about the power of empathy.
Courtesy of Guaranty Trust Bank
“If you’re running Nigeria today, you should definitely have a plan for when oil goes away. We’re not planning enough, nor are a lot of other countries.”
How Segun Agbaje, CEO of Nigeria’s Guaranty Trust Bank, is building a financial institution for the digital age.
Photograph by Vern Evans

“Humility means, ‘Don’t think you’re the smartest person in the room. Don’t think you have all the answers.’”

The former Stanford president and current Alphabet chair distills leadership lessons from a long career in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Photograph courtesy of UiPath
“Look, in 2013, I didn’t know what BPO was. Because if big enterprises are automated, what do you outsource?”
Daniel Dines runs UiPath — the only unicorn to emerge from Romania and one of the world's fastest-growing software companies — which helps businesses design the way they automate processes.
Courtesy of Natura

“I believe that in 50 years, saying that a company is not carbon neutral will be the same as saying today that a company resorts to child labor.”

João Paulo Ferreira, CEO of Natura, Brazil’s largest cosmetics company, uses the secrets of the Amazon to fuel an ambitious, environmentally responsible expansion agenda.
Courtesy of Johannesburg Stock Exchange
“Business can make a big difference. Now there’s an additional urgency because the excesses of capitalism will eventually cause the poor to rise up and say: ‘This is not going to be accepted anymore.”
As head of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Nicky Newton-King has pushed companies to look beyond shareholder return and earn the trust of the community.
The three authors in conversation at CEO Action in June (left to right): John W. Rogers, Jr., of Ariel Investments; Efraim Grinberg of Movado Group; and Tim Ryan of PwC.
Photo courtesy of CEO Action
“We need to move diversity and inclusion activity from the big companies to the next tier. Small and medium-sized companies are not as diverse as their larger brethren, and in private equity, it’s even worse.”
At the 2019 meeting of CEO Action, chief executives talk about the challenge of fostering diversity and inclusion in their companies and industries.
Photo courtesy of Geely Auto Group
“We think cars in the future will be capable of vertical takeoff and landing, and will fly freely through cities and rural areas. The potential market is very big, but the field is very much an emerging one.”
An Conghui, president of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and CEO of Geely Auto Group, explains the future of flying cars and the value of an international brand.
Courtesy of Siemens US
“We now have all the necessary building blocks in place at Siemens to take AI to the next level.”
Barbara Humpton, US CEO of one of the largest and oldest engineering firms in the world, talks about continuous innovation, the future of AI, and the societal aspects of technology.
Courtesy of Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB
“The key threats for a bank are the ones identified by the global CEOs: cyber-threats, overregulation, and the speed of technological change.”
Johan Torgeby, CEO of Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (SEB), one of the biggest Nordic banks, explains how trust and technology must form the foundations of banking in the digital world.
Courtesy of Pinnacle Group
“One of the things I’ve learned in life is that if you want to do something big, you have to start local.”
Pinnacle Group CEO Nina Vaca’s top priorities are to keep growing fast and expand the talent pipeline.
Photo courtesy of Michelin
“If you have a purpose that includes a well-considered level of social and environmental responsibility, you’re going to increase your profits in the long run.”
Jean-Dominique Senard, the departing CEO of Michelin and incoming chair of Renault and of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi alliance, argues that the prevailing concept of corporate purpose needs an update.
Photo courtesy of Geely Auto Group
“We think cars in the future will be capable of vertical takeoff and landing, and will fly freely through cities and rural areas. The potential market is very big, but the field is very much an emerging one.”
An Conghui, president of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and CEO of Geely Auto Group, explains the future of flying cars and the value of an international brand.
Photo courtesy of Ayala
“The escalation that’s taken place between China and the United States is actually leading to renewed opportunities within ASEAN.”
Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, who leads one of the Philippines’ biggest conglomerates, explains how Southeast Asian companies are taking advantage of the changes in East–West dynamics.
Photo courtesy of Linamar
“People get caught up in the allure, and suddenly investors only invest in companies they think are disruptors, whatever their definition is of that, which doesn’t make sense.”
Linamar is evolving from an automotive supplier into fields such as agricultural equipment and infrastructure. As CEO Linda Hasenfratz tells us, it’s all part of the 100-year plan.
Photo courtesy of Avianca
“Managing abundance or prosperity, anyone can do that. But to lead and manage in moments of crisis — that is when you know if someone can be the leader of a big organization.”
CEO Hernán Rincón explains his goal to transform Avianca into a digital company that flies airplanes.
Courtesy of Wolters Kluwer
“Transformations do not happen overnight. The whole effort has taken more than 15 years, but now we are what we can accurately say is an expert solutions company.”
Nancy McKinstry, CEO and chairman of Wolters Kluwer, explains how going digital is allowing a 183-year-old provider of specialist information and expert solutions to prosper in a data-driven world.
Courtesy of MAPFRE
“It’s very difficult to offer a policy for cybersecurity, because there’s not enough transparency. If the information isn’t accurate, cybersecurity is uninsurable.”
For Antonio Huertas MejÍas, chief executive officer of the MAPFRE insurance company, economic growth aligns with making a sustainable contribution to the wider community.
Courtesy of Peloton
“Today, the dollars in digital are incredibly inefficient, because that’s where everyone is.”
Peloton’s bikes may be stationary. But as CEO John Foley tells us, the business is on the move.
Photograph courtesy of DBS Bank
“I found that once you give people permission and you give them some training, you unleash this tremendous energy to do things.”
In 2014, Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS Bank of Singapore, asked his staff to think like the employees of a fintech startup and build the digital capabilities they would need to succeed.
Photograph courtesy of Standard Bank
“Experience and intuition are still very important, but you have got to triangulate them with data. As I always say: ‘In God we trust; everybody else bring data.’”
Despite the continent’s governance challenges, Standard Bank CEO Sim Tshabalala says Africa is open for business and ready to take advantage of rapid digitization.
Photograph courtesy of Satalia
“If used correctly, AI can absolutely change your business. But there’s a lot of hype out there, and a lot of people investing in these technologies don’t know what they’re doing.”
Daniel Hulme, CEO of the AI solutions startup Satalia, offers other chief executives a primer on the technology that will shape the future of work and business.
Photograph courtesy of Lineage Logistics
“In 36 months, by using data to revise our logistics, temperature control, and energy practices, we found the equivalent of 600,000 square feet of new capacity in our existing real estate.”
For Greg Lehmkuhl, president and CEO of Lineage logistics, temperature-controlled supply chains for perishables are one of the world’s next great platforms.
Photograph courtesy of Tata Sons
“The effect of automation and artificial intelligence on the workforce is misunderstood. We don’t have AI systems that will replace humans. They don’t have the judgment capability of human beings.”
Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chair of Tata Sons, sets a strategic course for the 21st century.
Photograph courtesy of Adidas AG
“When something occurs in Shanghai or New York, kids all over the world see it immediately. This means that we can focus our marketing in just a few of the world’s major cities.”
Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted explains how to align business strategy and execution during a shift in global consumer demand.
Photograph courtesy of Gallup Inc.
“We found that the fastest-growing companies were predominantly led by first- or second-generation Americans: immigrants or sons or daughters of immigrants. No other factor stood out.”
Jim Clifton, chief executive of Gallup Inc., has a robust theory about entrepreneurialism and economic recovery.
Photograph courtesy of Grupo RBS
“People are told to launch enterprises that are adjacent to something they already do. But that mind-set will never lead [them] to start a truly new business.”
Brazilian media and private equity leader Eduardo Sirotsky Melzer has a message for high-tech, middle-market companies in emerging economies: This could be their moment.
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.

PwC's Global CEO Survey: Providing unique insight into the thinking of corporate leaders around the world, PwC's annual Global CEO Survey covers issues such as the prospects for economic growth, the challenges in building a workforce, the threats facing companies today, and the impact of AI.