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AI Update: What Do CEOs See the Fledgling Technology Doing in 2024?

AI Update: What Do CEOs See the Fledgling Technology Doing in 2024?

April 2024


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PwC recently released its 27th Annual Global CEO Survey. The report features data, trends, and insights directly from the top of the C-suite. Not surprisingly, this year’s information is focused on one area above all others: generative artificial intelligence. 

GenAI was the buzzword last year, and its impact was felt in every industry, from the industrial sector’s rank and file to Hollywood’s celebrities. The fact that it’s on leaders’ minds around the world isn’t surprising. However, several key facts and figures from the report are worth noting, including a distinct dichotomy between the potential and the threat that AI represents as a business tool. 

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from PwC’s findings

AI and Profitability

Ongoing transformation is part and parcel of 21st-century business activity, and AI is quickly becoming part of that process of continuous improvement and radical transformation. CEOs see it as a way to both reinvent existing value and create new value for consumers.  

They aren’t taking their eyes off the ball in the process of that transformation, either. While 2023 was the year of AI investment, 2024 is on track to become the pivot point where leaders look to already start taking profits in some form or another. In addition, maintaining corporate values, reinforcing trust, and prioritizing the climate are all part of CEOs’ priorities as they seek to meet evolving stakeholder expectations. 

With all of this in mind, PwC reports that nearly half of CEOs see Generative AI as a tool that will start to positively contribute to business activity this year. More specifically, 61% of American CEOs expect to improve the quality of their products and services. Leaders see this coming from multiple areas, such as optimizing costs and improving customer experiences. 

It’s worth pointing out that there’s a difference between quality and profitability, too. While the majority of CEOs see GenAI positively impacting things like personal and team efficiency, only 44% expect it to improve profitability in 2024. Even fewer respondents (35%) expect it to increase revenue. 

This reflects wise expectations. Leaders must resist the temptation to treat GenAI as a silver bullet or a magic lamp. It is a powerful tool, but it is just a tool nonetheless and one in its infancy. Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, predicts that the transition to AI will take half a century or more. Profitability often doesn’t manifest in a single year or even in 10.  

Patience is the name of the game, and most CEOs are aware of that. They are focusing on outcomes rather than pure profits, and given enough time, the former will lead to the latter. 


Reinforcing the Reinvention Imperative

Another major way AI is accelerating transformation is by reinforcing the reinvention imperative. This is the concept (made popular via the Harvard Business Review over a decade ago) that adaptation is at the heart of survival. Companies can’t just do what they do well. They must always be looking for ways to reinvent themselves.  

AI is amplifying the need for reinvention. PwC found that 68% of U.S. CEOs see the trend of redefining branded value continuing for the next few years as companies feverishly discover new ways to serve their customers. 

It may sound like reinforcing the status quo, and in a certain sense, it is. The need to adapt, evolve, and redefine has been a hallmark of business activity for most of the 21st century. But it is already intense pressure for businesses. The idea of increasing that pressure through GenAI could be a world-shaking activity for many CEOs and their teams, regardless of whether it happens this year or three years from now. 

AI, Security, and Regulations 

We started by discussing AI’s positive potential for profitability in 2024. Then, we shifted to the more neutral concept of accelerated and necessary reinvention. Now, let’s see what top executives have to say about the darker underbelly of AI’s evolution in 2024. 

At this point, 77% of CEOs think GenAI will increase cybersecurity risks on some level. Misinformation and brand reputation damage are also concerns for 63% and 55% of CEOs, respectively. 

These aren’t new worries but hearing that so many top executives are spending time thinking about and prioritizing them is significant. Particularly in an election year, concepts like misinformation and reputation will doubtless be in focus. How can AI threaten to undermine that on a corporate level? 

We are already going through the breakdown of a 75-year-old security order. AI could exacerbate the issue if companies don’t handle it with care—and CEOs know it. 

Bracing for AI Impact in 2024

AI is already transforming life as we know it. The challenge for leaders is finding a responsible approach to integrating this powerful tool into their companies while minimizing the risks that it entails.  

Executives must also consider the impact that AI adoption has on their existing workforce. Often new tech tools require employees to improve their skills, and PwC’s survey found that 61% of CEOs reported that they see generative AI requiring most of their employees to reskill and upskill. 

Despite the hesitations and concerns, AI remains poised to continue playing its suddenly prominent role in business. From inflation to elections, there are many fluid factors in the business world right now, and AI is one area where CEOs and their C-suite collaborators have a little more control. This makes it an important factor as leaders plan out the futures of their companies. How are you going to handle investing in, using, and guarding against AI as a company?  

How are you going to handle investing in, using, and guarding against AI as a company?

This is where working with a retained executive search and consulting firm like Stanton Chase can help. Over the decades, our team has provided support not just with hiring the right leaders but also with helping make the big decisions.  

Reach out, and let’s start a conversation. Our consulting resources can help you make decisions about GenAI with confidence as you seek the best course for your company moving forward. 

About the Author

Peter Deragon is a Managing Director at Stanton Chase Los Angeles, the Supply Chain Global Functional Leader, and the Capital Markets and Investment Banking Global Subsector Leader. He is also active in the CFO Practice Group and Financial Services, where he started his career. He has 30-plus years of experience as a trusted advisor and manager in B2B environments. In his free time, Peter supports charitable organizations, especially those focused on ocean stewardship. 

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