Nearly half of utility CEOs are concerned cyber-attacks are imminent

Amid an environment where cyber security is under intense scrutiny, power and utilities executives are feeling the pressure. Forty-eight percent of CEOs showed concern that becoming the victim of a cyber-attack is a matter of “when” and not “if” and not all CEOs are well-prepared to manage such an event, according to KPMG’s 2018 Global Power & Utilities CEO Outlook.

In the survey, 58 percent of CEOs feel prepared in their ability to identify new cyber threats, and in the event of a cyber-attack, 68 percent feel prepared in their ability to manage external stakeholders, and 63 percent are confident they can contain the impact on strategic operations.

“Technology-driven opportunities in the P&U sector have also opened the door for significant risks and cyber threats which feature highly on CEOs and Board agendas,” said Regina Mayor, Global Sector Head, Energy and Natural Resources, KPMG. “The levels of cyber defense and preparedness vary across the sector, but it is critical that organizations take the necessary steps to protect their systems or they risk becoming a target for potentially crippling attacks.”

As CEOs navigate around these cyber issues, they are starting to see the importance of new workforce capabilities in supporting their organizations’ future growth, with 59 percent identifying cyber security specialists as the most important new role, followed by data scientists (57%) and digital transformation managers (54%).

In such a customer-centric industry such as P&U, CEOs understand the importance of protecting customer data, but emphasize the need to better meet customer expectations. Nearly two-thirds of all CEOs in the survey said that protecting customer data is critical to enabling growth in their future customer base. One-third of CEOs feel their organizations’ performance in meeting customer expectations for a personalized experience is sub-par, and 78 percent feel they are just meeting, or below, customer expectations. Further, as the purchasing power and customer demands from the millennial generation grow stronger, CEOs see the biggest challenges in meeting the generation’s needs as: responding to millennials’ expectations of an on-demand service; appointing senior leaders who can better relate to millennials; and engaging millennials in new ways via digital channels.

The survey results indicate that even amid a transformational period for the industry, P&U CEOs are confident growth is on the horizon and are prepared to lead their organizations through a transformation to remain competitive. In fact, 89 percent of companies are confident in growth prospects for their company and 94 percent expect increased headcount over the next three years.

Top strategies for achieving organizational growth objectives over the three-year period include strategic alliances with third parties and organic growth. Additionally, CEOs intend to undertake a number of actions to help pursue these objectives that include: increased focus on development of innovative technologies; increased investment in disruption detection and innovation processes; making products and services available via an online platform provider; and setting up accelerator or incubator programs for start-up firms.

“CEOs are excited about leveraging existing infrastructure and deploying new technologies that will benefit consumers. We’re starting to see more collaboration outside of individual organizations to enable new ventures, especially in digital arenas like blockchain, Internet-of-Things and platform solutions,” said Mayor.

While technological disruption and innovation is imperative in today’s environment, emerging technology is a top threat to organizational growth, followed by climate change and cyber-security risk. In fact, while 92 percent see technology as an opportunity versus a threat, one-third feel their organization is struggling to keep pace with the rate of tech innovation in the sector.

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