February 21, 2024
PwC survey: 77% of CEOs concerned about AI cybersecurity risks


Today, almost every enterprise wants to jump on the generative AI bandwagon. They are building interesting new solutions and are bullish on the prospects of the foundation models.

However, according to a new survey of global CEOs conducted by PwC, despite all major benefits, this much-hyped technology can also bring in some major challenges, including potential security risks.

The firm interviewed over 4,700 global executives, including 231 from the U.S., to understand how they plan to reinvent their business models to keep creating value for their customers and employees. In the responses, most CEOs converged on the potential of generative AI.

But, many of them also flagged the challenge of building trust in the technology — with 77% agreeing that gen AI may increase the risk of cybersecurity breaches

The survey brings to light what global executives aim to achieve with gen AI in the near and long term and what pitfalls are on their minds to address as soon as possible.

Gen AI will improve products but also increase competition

With the power of GPTs in the hands of businesses, global CEOs expect the technology to start providing returns this year. Although, this will not be in terms of direct profits. 

In the survey, 58% of the survey participants said they expect generative AI to improve the quality of their product in the next 12 months, while 70% agreed it will significantly change how their company creates, delivers and captures value in the long term. 

On a granular level, they expect the biggest benefit to come in terms of employee productivity, with as many as 64% of the executives expecting that their employees will be able to do more in the coming months with the power of gen AI. Nearly 60% also expect their own efficiency to improve with the technology.

All these benefits are eventually expected to culminate into an improved bottom line, 44% of the CEOs suggested. They expect to see GenAI providing a net increase in profits in the next 12 months versus just 3% projecting a net decrease. 

But, when generative AI makes the product and team of one company more capable, it will do the same for other players in the industry, intensifying competition.

As many as 68% of the CEOs expect this to happen over the next three years. In this scenario, the skills of the workforce and how they unlock value from gen AI in their role will be the differentiating element.

As of now, PwC notes that the societal impact of gen AI remains unclear, with some executives planning to hire as they implement the technology while others looking to reduce their workforce.

According to the firm, the ideal approach in this case should be to look for gen AI-savvy talent while training and encouraging the existing employees to automate and augment routine tasks, freeing up more time for higher-value, revenue-boosting work.

“Being transparent, purpose-driven and trusted regarding AI-related plans and decisions can help bring along those employees who are wary of AI so they feel more comfortable experimenting — and innovating — with it. CEOs should embrace this issue as a new facet of their role by understanding, explaining and managing the inevitable tensions emanating from AI,” the firm wrote in the survey.

Concerns about building trust in generative AI

While training and encouragement can push employees to embrace generative AI, building organic trust in the inputs and outputs of AI systems  – a key aspect in driving adoption and growing the business – still remains one of the top concerns in the minds of the executives.

In the survey, they said the risk of cybersecurity breaches continues to be one of the biggest roadblocks to building trust. Specifically, 77% of them agreed that the technology can increase the chances of a breach. 

Then, they also expressed secondary concerns such as the spread of misinformation (63%) within the company and the legal or reputational damage (55%) that can stem from generative AI.

To address all these problems, PwC notes that CEOs should make sure who uses AI and that it is used responsibly within their organization.

“Earning trust can be an opportunity to differentiate your company. Embed it into how you measure the success of the business, using appropriate quantitative data and qualitative measures. Trust can also be a valuable intangible asset during a business model or operational transformation. Trusted AI is more than just compliant, safeguarded systems. It means deploying the right solutions for the right situation and using the right data, policies and oversight to achieve relevant, reliable results. Achieving that requires an enterprise-wide approach and a set of trusted practices,” the company added.

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