May 3, 2022

CEO Optimism on the Rise, Reports Marcum-Hofstra CEO Survey

CEO Optimism on the Rise, Reports Marcum-Hofstra CEO Survey Advisory

MAY 3, 2022 (New York City, NY) – Optimism among mid-market CEOs is on the rise, with nearly twice as many rating their outlook a “10” compared to two months ago, according to the latest CEO survey from Marcum LLP and Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business.

Download Survey Results

The percentage of CEOs who rated their business outlook a “10” (on a scale of 1-10) rose from 8.9% in February to 16% in the latest survey, which was conducted in April. Those who rated their business outlook 8-10 also increased, from 36.5% to 42.1%. 

While overall optimism went up, there were substantial differences among sectors. Optimism at the highest levels (8-10) was driven by large increases among CEOs in financial services and financial institutions, professional services, real estate, construction and healthcare. For example, 40% of construction CEOs rated their outlook at the highest level in April, compared to just nine percent in February.

At the same time, optimism dipped slightly at the top range among CEOs in retail and consumer products, manufacturing and distribution, technology, and government/nonprofit/education, the survey found.

“The sharp increase in optimism among middle-market CEOs is obviously very welcome and, hopefully, is a positive indicator, at least in the short-term.  But it is a mixed bag for different industries, with those in the tangible goods, tech and public sectors not yet recovered to the same degree as those in the service industries.  The global situation in Europe and the return of inflation here further complicates things, but entrepreneurial companies generally rise to the top. Based on what we’re seeing among our clients, I’m optimistic that forward-looking companies will continue to gain strength in the post-COVID economy,” said Jeffrey M. Weiner, Marcum’s chairman & chief executive officer.

This latest Marcum-Hofstra survey is the first since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and CEOs reported that the conflict is having significant impact on their businesses and decision-making.

More than three-quarters of CEOs (77.4%) indicated rising energy costs are impacting their businesses, with a little more than a third (35.7%) reporting they are passing along some or all of the higher costs. Another 37.7 percent say they are absorbing the higher energy costs.

Global events have also heightened CEOs’ concerns about cybersecurity, with nine in 10 saying they are more concerned about such threats and 68.5% reporting they have been increasing their investment to defend against possible attacks.

“Managing the intense pace and volatility of world events – whether it is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the global growth concerns as China’s COVID-19 lockdown intensifies or Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter– is the ‘new normal’ for mid-market CEOs,” said K. G. Viswanathan, interim dean of the Zarb School.

The “Great Resignation” continues to be a challenge for mid-market CEOs, with more than three-quarters (76.7%) reporting they have lost more employees in the past year than is typical. Nearly 20 percent say they’ve lost “significantly more” employees during the last 12 months.

Survey participants described what they are doing/offering to retain employees, with bonuses and work flexibility being the most popular responses. Some highlights include:

  • “Allowing hybrid work.”
  • “Better sign-on bonuses, opportunities to work more from home.”
  • “Evolve culture fundamentally. Give more responsibility and opportunities, offer incentive-based pay … recognize each person’s uniqueness.”
  • “Extra health benefits.”
  • “Free health benefits for family of every permanent employee.”
  • “Higher wages.”
  • “Increased our match in the 401K contribution.”
  • “More vacation.”
  • “More profit-sharing.”
  • “We are offering day-care stipends.”
  • “Cookies. Cupcakes. Extra pay. PTO (paid time off).”

Marcum-Hofstra CEO Survey - No2, 2022

About the Survey
The Marcum-Hofstra CEO Survey is a periodic gauge of mid-market CEOs’ outlook and their priorities for the next 12 months. The survey polls the leaders of companies with revenues ranging from $5 million to $1 billion-plus.

It is conducted as part of the Zarb School of Business MBA curriculum, and developed and analyzed by Hofstra MBA students led by Dr. Andrew Forman, associate professor of international business and marketing, in partnership with Marcum.

“CEOs’ optimism in the face of the disparate focal concerns of cybersecurity, rising energy costs, and employee retention speaks to the importance of adaptability and resilience. The Marcum-Hofstra survey provides students with valuable insight into the critical importance of these leadership traits,” Dr. Forman said.

Business leaders from 257 companies participated in the latest survey of 2022.

About the Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University
Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business prepares students to become tomorrow’s global leaders. Located just 25 miles from New York City, Zarb students have access to internships and networking opportunities across every industry. The Zarb School combines entrepreneurial, hands-on learning and research with real-world experience and mentorship in state-of-the-art facilities, including a Behavioral Research in Business Lab, Center for Entrepreneurship, and academic trading room. Our undergraduate and graduate programs in accounting, management and entrepreneurship, marketing and international business, finance, and business analytics are ranked and recognized by US News & World Report.

About Marcum LLP
Marcum LLP is a top-ranked national accounting and advisory firm dedicated to helping entrepreneurial, middle-market companies and high net worth individuals achieve their goals. Marcum’s industry-focused practices offer deep insight and specialized services to privately held and publicly registered companies, and nonprofit and social sector organizations. The Firm also provides a full complement of technology, wealth management, and executive search and staffing services. Headquartered in New York City, Marcum has offices in major business markets across the U.S. and select international locations. #AskMarcum.