December 18, 2023

CEOs Embrace AI for Efficiency Amid Economic Challenges, Reveals Marcum-Hofstra Survey

Leaders Cite Operational Efficiency and Cost Savings as Top Benefits of AI in Latest Industry Survey

CEOs Embrace AI for Efficiency Amid Economic Challenges, Reveals Marcum-Hofstra Survey Advisory

DECEMBER 18, 2023 (New York City, NY) – A majority of CEOs signal cautious optimism toward AI and its potential to drive efficiency and innovation, according to the latest CEO survey from Marcum LLP and Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business. The survey highlights key trends and concerns for businesses, including economic challenges, the effect of global upheaval, talent management, the growing role of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), and cybersecurity readiness.

The survey results indicate a shift in CEO optimism, with a decrease in those who view the business environment as “very positive.” Despite this, over 41% of CEOs remain confident, staking themselves in the “positive” range, an over 5% increase from September. The overall weighted average outlook remains steady.

The construction, financial services, and manufacturing/distribution sectors have seen a notable increase in optimism. The most significant gains occurred in the construction sector (33% vs. 19% in the previous survey).

Economic concerns remain top of mind, with the percentage of CEOs indicating it as a top-3 concern increased to 57.6% from 49.8% in the September 2023 survey. Talent availability and the cost of materials and operations continue to have significant influences, albeit with a slight ease in the level of concern compared to earlier in the year.

35% of CEOs report utilizing AI tools in their companies, up almost 10% from the February 2023 survey. CEOs prioritize AI for improved operational efficiency (64.2%), cost savings (52.5%), and effectiveness (51.8%).

Companies are using or considering AI tools for a variety of reasons, including process improvements, business planning, and customer service. They shared many of their use cases in the survey, such as:

  • “AI tools for patient scheduling and flow for RNs.”
  • “Back-office tools to improve billing, cash flow, and operations.”
  • “Customer service, manufacturing throughput, and supply chain logistics.”
  • “Replacing low-level staff positions with the use of AI Chats.”

“Our survey findings align with what we hear from our clients and the business community in general. Economic concerns remain the top priority and continue to impact strategic planning and operational priorities,” said Jeffrey Weiner, Chairman & CEO of Marcum. “However, there is a growing recognition that artificial intelligence can help address some of these challenges by driving operational efficiencies and innovation. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why we focus on guiding our clients in strategically adopting emerging technologies like automation and AI. We just launched our own AI tool,, which is already showing real benefits in terms of team productivity.”

Business Environment Outlook

CEOs are cautiously optimistic about the business environment. 41.2% rate their outlook in the high range (8-10), with the overall index remaining steady at 6.7.

Key Influences on Business Planning

  • Economic concerns intensify and are now a top-3 concern for 57.6% of CEOs, up from 49.8%.
  • Availability of talent remains crucial, with 37.4% citing it as a top concern, a decrease from 46.8%.
  • Rising material and operational costs remain a significant concern for 37.0% of CEOs.

Automation and AI in Operations

  • 65% of CEOs report using or actively planning to incorporate automation and robotics.
  • 35.8% already utilize AI tools, with 34.6% planning their implementation.
  • CEOs prioritize AI for improved operational efficiency (64.2%), cost-savings (52.5%), and effectiveness (51.8%).

Cybersecurity Concerns

  • Only 33.5% of CEOs feel well-prepared for cybersecurity threats, with 58.4% acknowledging the need for improvement.
  • Cybersecurity best practices include risk assessments, data backups, encryption, regular employee training, and strong password policies.

Global Environment Impact

  • 19.1% of CEOs report direct impact from global upheaval, while 42.4% experience indirect effects.
  • 30.4% express concern about future impacts on their businesses.

The survey is developed, conducted, and analyzed by Zarb School MBA students, led by Dr. Andrew Forman, associate professor of international business and marketing, and in partnership with Marcum.

Dr. Forman shared his perspective on the latest survey’s findings: “The results of the CEO survey provide students with valuable insight into the need for corporations to continually monitor the external environment to fend off threats such as those posed by global strife and cybersecurity breaches and opportunities including those presented by evolving technologies.”

About the Survey
The Marcum-Hofstra CEO Survey is a periodic gauge of mid-market CEOs’ outlook and priorities for the next 12 months. The survey polled the leaders of companies with revenues ranging from $5 million to $1 billion-plus and was conducted the week of September 4, 2023. 257 mid-market CEOs participated.

Janet Lenaghan, dean of the Hofstra University Zarb School of Business, shared her perspective: “CEOs are navigating a complex landscape with a measured sense of optimism. More are leveraging AI and automation to enhance efficiency and spur innovation while remaining keenly aware of the economic headwinds and cybersecurity imperatives. At the Zarb School, we are committed to preparing our students to lead in this dynamic environment by equipping them with the knowledge and skills to harness these technologies responsibly and effectively.”

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 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, Princeton Review, Poets & Quants and Fortune Magazine. Visit for more information.

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.

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